COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — In the shadow of the Veterans Memorial at Memorial Park in Colorado Springs sits the Korean War monument, honoring the more than 23,000 service members killed in a three-year war that never has officially ended. More than 103,000 were wounded.
It’s known as the Forgotten War, and on Saturday, dozens of people made sure to remember the sacrifice of the people who were lost.
“Nobody wanted to remember it as a war, and it was a war, let me tell you,” says former Marine Sgt. Ronald W. Roper.
Roper fought in the war and earned the rank of sergeant by 19 years old. He remembers serving closely with John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth.
“I never let my service end,” Roper said. “It makes me proud. I served my country. That’s something you always want to do.”
The result of the war was never a peace deal, but rather an agreement to establish a demilitarized zone around two kilometers on each side, near the 38th latitude parallel line. It means technically, South Korea and the U.S are still in a war against North Korea.
“So, we look at this day as a day of recollection for the damage that was done to the Korean people,” said Michael Thomason, the secretary of the Dutch Nelsen Chapter of Korean War Veterans Association.
In 1996, the chapter unveiled the monument in Memorial Park to honor veterans like Roper and the fellow service members who never made it home.
“What you accomplished was the same thing that all the troops did—you gave hope to a nation that really had no reason to hope,” said John McGibney, the former honorary consulate to the Republic of Korea for the State of Colorado.
The American presence fueled hope in both the north and south of the country, says Michael Song, the current honorary consulate for Colorado to the Republic.
Song said his father escaped the north around the time of the war.
“He was 17 at the time,” Song said through tears. “He was a refugee and he left his family, he left his mother, he left his sister and he came to the south because he wanted a better life.”
Ninety percent of the foreign forces fighting on the peninsula were American, and Song doesn’t believe he would be where he is today without them.
“There were a lot of people that sacrificed their lives so I can go to West Point and serve there,” Song said.
Tuesday marks 68 years since the armistice deal was signed.