The bond between the U.S. and South Korea was built on blood and sacrifice, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff noted as he observed the 59th anniversary of the Korean War Armistice at Arlington National Cemetery July 27.
Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr. joined Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta during the wreath laying and remembrance ceremony held at the cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and Memorial Amphitheatre.
“Today, I’m so honored to speak among many of those who shed that blood and made those sacrifices that built this great alliance,” Winnefeld said. “Indeed, on this anniversary of the Korean War armistice, we honor the legacy of the hundreds of thousands of American soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines.”
This day, he said, is a time to honor and remember “those whom we lost, those who are still missing, and those who came home and are here today, whose efforts along the 38th Parallel, and along the Korean Peninsula six decades ago, helped prevent the spread of tyranny.”
Winnefeld gave a special greeting to Korean War veterans in attendance.
“Because of your service and sacrifice, the Republic of Korea exists today as a peaceful and prosperous country, a beacon of freedom in northeast Asia and a close ally of the United States of America,” the admiral said.
“Your legacy – one of tenacity and perseverance in the face of the toughest of combat conditions – lives on,” Winnefeld told the Korean War veterans. “For many of us, that legacy is a family affair. [Whether it's] a parent, a brother or a close relative who served on the peninsula – I’m no exception.”
The vice chairman proudly shared a short narrative of his father’s actions while serving in the Korean War.
“My own father, as a young Navy ensign, got on a motor whaleboat, drove around a point, out of sight, behind enemy lines and went ashore under fire to spot naval gunfire,” Winnefeld said. “So I know that I join a lot of children — fellow sons and daughters, and even grandsons and granddaughters, who are in the audience today when I say that I am very proud of my father’s service in Korea.”
Winnefeld also noted his father is a proud member of the Republic of Korea’s own Korean War Veterans Association.
“Many of my dad’s classmates and friends were Marines who endured the bitter cold and sweltering hot summers and long marches, and who, like many others from other services and many other countries, fought so heroically in Korea,” he said. “Many of them never came home.”
Winnefeld pointed out the impact of the Korea War on Americans, as he said many, “with no personal connection to this struggle,” have walked around the “spine-tingling” Korean War Memorial and felt the presence of the 50,000 Americans who died in the conflict.
“Their legacy lives on, where today the men and women of United States Forces-Korea exemplify the team work and dedication set forth by their predecessors,” he said. “Along with their Korean partners and other allies from around the globe, they maintain peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.”
The vice chairman assured Korean War veterans their legacy has been “well tended” by the current group of service members serving in Korea at posts such as Yongsan Garrison, Camp Humphries, Osan Air Base and elsewhere.
“[They are] fully committed to our long-standing partnership and serving in the long shadow of their predecessors,” Winnefeld said. “Their motto is ‘Kapchi Kapchi Da’ – we go together.”
Winnefeld also thanked those responsible for organizing and participating in the ceremony.
“For every warrior who served, there is a precious set of memories … inspiring us all to recommit ourselves and to ensure that those who served in this so-called ‘forgotten war’ are never forgotten,” he said.