Longtime KWVA-VC #56 Commander honored as Peace Ambassador
By Peggy Kelly
Santa Paula News
Published: August 02, 2013
Korean War veterans were honored Saturday when they were presented with Korean American Peace Medals following the ceremony recognizing the 60th anniversary of the end of the war.
When Korean War Veterans Association-Ventura County #56 Commander David Lopez received his medal from Korean Consul General Shin Yeon-sung, Lopez was told his recognition also carried the title Peace Ambassador. The medal is an expression of appreciation from the Korean government to U.S. service men and women who served in the Korean conflict, 1950 to 1953.
Lopez, a Santa Paula native, and other Korean war veterans were presented with the medals following the remembrance ceremony.
The medal is given to Korean War veterans and support personnel who served in that country with “everlasting gratitude of the Republic of Korea for the service you and your countrymen have performed in restoring and preserving our freedom and democracy. We cherish in our hearts the memory of your boundless sacrifices in helping us re-establish our Free Nation.”
The ceremony held Saturday at Veterans Memorial Park was attended by hundreds of people, including Korean Veterans Association USA members who fought shoulder-to-shoulder with their military counterparts in the war. The organization’s president Col. (Ret.) Myong Chul Seo and the Consol General spent time shaking hands and chatting with attendees after the ceremony.
Consul General Shin Yeon-sung said it was his first visit to Santa Paula, and he found the ceremony “very touching.” He noted although strides have been made in recent years to educate people about the Korean War, known for decades as the Forgotten War, there is still quite a ways to go.
“Even in Korea, the young generation is not sure what my generation feels” about the conflict that kept South Korean free of Communist rule although the country remains split.
The Consol General, whose father fought in the Korean War, said he was impressed by the support shown by Santa Paulans for veterans. “What a beautiful scene here in your community” with its veterans’ monuments at the park named in honor of all who served and the dozens of floral wreaths placed at the base of the Korean War Veterans Memorial. He noted recognizing the sacrifices made and importance of the Korean War should be impressed upon children of all countries, including his own.
The Korean War between the Republic of Korea (South Korea), supported by the United Nations, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea), at one time supported by the People’s Republic of China and the Soviet Union, was primarily the result of the political division of Korea at the conclusion of World War II. The peninsula was divided along the 38th parallel, with U.S. military forces occupying the southern half and Soviet military forces occupying the northern half.
Although on July 27, 1953 the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Chinese People’s Volunteers and the UN signed an armistice agreement ending the fighting, there has never been a peace treaty, so the Korean War has technically never ended.
The United States suffered 33,686 battle deaths, 2,830 non-battle deaths and 8,176 missing in action. More than 1.2 million were killed on both sides of the battlefield, and more than one million civilians died during the war.
“The sad and terrible history of this war,” said Consul General Shin Yeon-sung, “helped create such a promising country,” the free Republic of Korea, which over the decades has supported the U.S. in all military actions.
Korean Veterans Association USA President Col. (Ret.) Myong Chul Seo has attended the Santa Paula Korean War observances each year. “I was here when the monument was dedicated” on Veterans Day 2001, said the colonel, who was surrounded by members of the association for Korean-born veterans now living in the United States.
A resident of Torrance, Commander Lopez revisited Korea in 2009 when he was selected by The Korean Disabled Veterans Association to represent the United States at a conference held at the scene of the conflict. Among other activities, while in Korea Lopez participated in the military ceremony of the laying of the wreath at Seoul National Cemetery, joined by war veterans from Australia, Denmark, England, South Africa, Thailand and Turkey.