Service members, Korean War veterans, distinguished visitors and guests gathered at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl), June 25, to honor the events that transpired in Korea so many decades ago.
The 64th annual Korean War memorial ceremony paid tribute to the veterans, both living and dead, who fought for the freedom of South Korea and to protect an ally they hardly knew, which eventually resulted in a long-lasting friendship.
The ceremony opened with the marching of both the South Korean and the United States colors, followed by the national anthems of each country. Many veterans sang along to their anthems as the U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific Band played.
Several honored guests presented remarks, including Neil Abercrombie, governor of Hawaii, and Navy Adm. Harry Harris Jr., U.S. Pacific Fleet commander.
“It’s great to be here with all of you in this idyllic setting to acknowledge the achievements and sacrifices of true American heroes,” Harris said. “We pause to remember the 456 military men from Hawaii who were killed in the Korean War, a higher death per capita rate than any other state in the union. They were part of the 36,000 who gave their last full measure in Korea. These mighty men and women of valor created a lasting legacy that is the world we know today.”
Service members, veterans and guests lined up to lay wreaths at the base of the memorial near the conclusion of the ceremony.
Col. Jeffrey P. Davis, MarForPac chief of staff, also presented a wreath alongside U.S. and Republic of Korea veterans to honor the fallen. He, along with other wreath-layers, was accompanied by two ROK Navy cadets who saluted each wreath placed in front of the memorial.
“The United States has very few allies in which it has fought against, but more importantly, one of the allies it has never fought against is the Republic of Korea,” Davis said. “And to have an ally like that through all of these years is a true testament of friendship.”
Following the wreath-laying, U.S. Marines conducted a rifle honors volley followed by a Marine bugler performing “Taps” and the audience observed a moment of silence.
Veterans stayed behind after the ceremony to pay their individual respects at the memorial.
“On this anniversary at the beginning of the Korean War, let us never forget those brave men and women who answered the call as we do to serve and fight in a place called Korea,” Harris said. “Korea reminds us freedom is an idea worth fighting for and, if need be, an idea worth dying for. Korea must never be forgotten.”