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New York City Council Remembers America's "Forgotten War"


Image by Daderot, courtesy of Creative Commons

HOST, MARINE SAINT: How well do you know your American history? Between 1950 and 1953, America aided the Republic of Korea against northern Communist forces in what became known as the Korean War. It was the first conflict of the Cold War.

HOST, CECILIA BLOTTO: And now, the New York City Council is pushing for congress to recognize veterans’ contributions to a war that American textbooks sometimes forget. Samuel Eli Shepherd reports.

SAMUEL SHEPHERD: This morning, the New York City Council Committee on Veterans approved Resolution 269, marking April 26th as Korean War Veterans and Korean Defense Veterans Recognition Day, making sure that the government remembers America’s “Forgotten War.”

PALLADINO: We sent five million people to a three year conflict in Korea. We lost 36 thousand service people and others in the war.  

SHEPHERD: Councilmember Vicky Palladino introduced the motion on April 2nd. Chief of Staff for the committee's chair, Daniel Kurzyna, says APRIL 26 was chosen to be separate from the existing Korean War Armistice Day. This morning, in a five-minute meeting, the Committee on Veterans voted unanimously to approve Palladino’s idea.

[AMBIENCE: Council members approving the motion, and clapping.]

SHEPHERD: Now that the proposal passed, Palladino is calling on congress, and Biden, to enshrine the day into the national calendar. 

PALLADINO: It would be great, if the president does this and we sign this in, and then we can take it up at a state level and we can do what we need to here to make it a national holiday.

SHEPHERD: Veterans are a major part of the community Palladino serves in northeast Queen’s.

PALLADINO: I represent District 19, and in District 19, I have the largest number of veterans in the entire city of New York. have a veteran’s resource centre at my office every other Wednesday and the lines are large for them to understand what benefits they’re entitled to… I did get to meet a great deal of my Korean vets, I call them mine cuz that’s how I feel, and we always host a great Veterans Thanksgiving. Like I said, it’s very personal. 

SHEPHERD: The idea is modeled after National Vietnam War Veterans Day, which is honored on March 29. The Korean War  sometimes   gets overshadowed by being sandwiched between World War II and Vietnam.

PALLADINO: But the Korean War vets, what do they have? Nothing! Nothing! It’s time.

SHEPHERD: It’s been 71 years since the Korean War ended, and many of the soldiers have since passed away, but Palladino says it’s better late than never.

PALLADINO: Although few are left, but at least their family, and our American legion so everybody can recognize them as the heroes that they are...heir families, their kids, their grandchildren, especially the grandchildren, kids your age, you need to know what happened!  

SHEPHERD: Those grandchildren of Korean War veterans are everywhere. So much so that I stumbled into one, 27-year-old Claira Benioff on the subway ride back from city hall.

[AMBIENCE: Subway door.]

CLARA BENIOFF: I know that my grandfather fought in the Korean War, but I don’t know very much about it.

SHEPHERD 1: Even though Benioff took advanced history classes in high school and has a grandparent who served, she’s fuzzy on the details about what the war was even about.

BENIOFF: I took an AP US History class in, I guess, 9th grade, and I’m sure we talked about it, but I have no…it doesn’t stick out to me. I have very few memories about it.

I’m happy to hear there’s some recognition because it absolutely is an overlooked period in our history and prevents people like me from not knowing anything about it.

SHEPHERD: With help from the city council, hopefully the next generation of Americans remember their nation’s history better. Samuel Eli Shepherd. Columbia Radio News.

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