Korean War veterans pay tribute to 56 year cease fire
By Sgt. Juan D. Alfonso
| | July 31, 2009
It’s been more than 56 years since North and South Korea signed a cease fire, postponing hostilities. But for dozens of veterans, the fighting might as well have been yesterday.
Korean War vets, their friends and family paid respect to the memory of their fallen brothers July 31 during a wreath laying ceremony at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl).
The crowd was a mix of former American and Republic of Korea service members. Both fought side-by-side during the war. The veterans embraced their old friends and seemed to have moved on, leading lives outside of the military, but some were still haunted by the memories of the bloody conflict. Memories that have guided them to attend their ceremony every year and letting their old friends know they will never be forgotten.
“You have to give credit to the guys who didn’t come back,” said Charlie Aresta, President of the Korean War Veterans Association’s Hawaii Chapter One, as tears welled up in his eyes. “In this very cemetery more than 800 unknown Korean War veterans are buried. It feels good to see all these people come out. It shows that someone really cares.”
The cease fire, signed June 27, 1953, was not the end of the war, but a suspension of hostilities. North Korea withdrew from the Armistice in May. But cease fire or no cease fire, Aresta and fellow veterans are determined to commemorate the event until the last veteran passes.
“They made a sacrifice and this is our opportunity to honor their memories,” said Retired Marine Col. Gene Castagnetti, Punchbowl director. “Thank you for your service. Thank you for your sacrifice. You are our finest Americans because you are veterans.”
Aresta invites veterans of all wars, past or present, to join him and the KWVA every Tuesday morning at the Like Like Drive-in on the corner of Keaumoku St. from 8 – 10 a.m.