Korean War Memorial

Standing in the shadow of World War II and without the generational angst that characterized the Vietnam War, the Korean War faded all too quickly from the public memory, overlooked by many, but never by those who served and their families. Memories of places like Bloody Ridge, Heartbreak Ridge, White Horse, and Kumsong are still vivid in the minds of those who served in what has come to be called "The Forgotten War."

Fitting then that the phrase "No Longer Forgotten" reads so prominently on the new Korean War Memorial at Greenville's Conestee Park baseball complex on Mauldin Road. For the members of the Foothills Chapter of the Korean War Veterans Association, the ten pieces of Georgia granite making up the new monument serve as a long-overdue reminder of the sacrifice made by so many of their fellow soldiers.

The fighting officially ended nearly 60 years ago, on July 27, 1953 with an armistice agreement, a ceasefire which never led to a peace treaty. Though only a memory now for the men who fought in it, the Korean War never really ended, and 1.1 million North Korean and 639,000 South Korean troops still face each other across a 2.5 mile demilitarized zone stretching across the Korean Peninsula in the exact same spot of the war's last front line, armed and ready should the ever-present tensions between the two nations ever boil over in this last vestige of the Cold War.

The war itself was a study in contradictions. On the surface, it was a civil war between rival factions of the same nation, but in a larger sense it served as a proxy war between global superpowers. It was a war that began with a wildly fluctuating front line, but eventually settled into a bloody two-year stalemate along the now infamous 38th Parallel, with neither side giving very much ground for the remainder of the conflict.

Most important of all, it was a war that saw an estimated 1.2 million casualties, over 36,000 of whom were American soldiers, more than one-tenth of the 326,000 who served.

It's those soldiers, those heroes who paid the ultimate sacrifice and those who made it home, that the new memorial is meant to honor. "We have something to be proud of, a point to rally around," Korean War Veteran Francis Thompson told WYFF at the memorial's groundbreaking ceremony.

After over two years of planning and fundraising for the project, and with construction taking place all this month, the monument is nearing its completion. In addition to the monument, the memorial will also include an "Honors Walkway" of engraved bricks, bearing the names of veterans. A dedication is scheduled for Saturday, June 1 at 11 a.m., and engraved bricks may still be purchased. A single brick with room for three lines costs $50, and a double brick with twice the space costs $75. Donations for the bricks may be made at the Foothills Chapter of the Korean War Veterans Association website at: http://www.koreanvets301.com

Christopher George is a freelance writer and multimedia professional from Spartanburg. He is a former editor and publisher of the Spartanburg Spark, and his writing and video work has appeared in numerous online and print publications including Mountain Xpress in Asheville, NC and in titles by the Hub City Writers Project.