- (Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon)
On the 60th anniversary of the Korean War armistice on Saturday, President Barack Obama paid tribute to American veterans, saying they deserved a better homecoming and that their sacrifices have allowed the millions of people to have freedom in South Korea.
"You, our veterans of Korea, deserved better. No veteran should ever be overlooked," Obama told the thousands of people who gathered at the Korean War Veterans Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. on Saturday.
The U.S.-led United Nations and South Korean forces fought the war against North Korean and Chinese troops between 1950 and 1953. At least 36,000 Americans were killed in what is often called "The Forgotten War."
"And down the decades, our nation has worked to right that wrong, including here, with this eternal memorial, where the measure of your sacrifice is enshrined for all time," the president added. "Because here in America, no war should ever be forgotten, and no veteran should ever be overlooked. And after the armistice, a reporter wrote, 'When men talk in some distant time with faint remembrance of the Korean War, the shining deeds will live.' The shining deeds will live."
Obama said the highest tribute Americans can offer today is to do what should have been done the day they come home. "In our hurried lives, let us pause. Let us listen. Let these veterans carry us back to the days of their youth, and let us be awed by their shining deeds."
Over 26,000 Canadians also fought the Korean War, and 516 of them were killed. In the Canadian province of Manitoba, veterans gathered in the capital city of Winnipeg at Brooksidhu Cemetery for a candlelight service, according to CTV News.
The war ended on July 27, 1953 without a formal peace treaty. The two Koreas are, therefore, still hostile to each other, and about 28,500 American troops are based in the south even today.
Obama said in his speech the war was no tie. "Korea was a victory," the president said. "When 50 million South Koreans live in freedom – a vibrant democracy, one of the world's most dynamic economies, in stark contrast to the repression and poverty of the North – that's a victory; that's your legacy."
The president went on to say that the veterans learned how short and precious life can be in the spring of their youth. "And because of you, millions of people can keep on living it, in freedom and in peace. Your lives are an inspiration. Your service will never be forgotten. You have the thanks of a grateful nation. And your shining deeds will live – now and forever."