By BRIAN SMITH
Don’t tell Richard Lamb that what he experienced in Korea was a conflict, police action or anything other than a war.
Saturday marked the 60th anniversary of what is considered the end of the three-year war.
Lamb, an Army medic who arrived in Korea as an 18-year-old in March 1953, said he has been disheartened by the lack of respect the war has received.
“It was a war. Not a police action or whatever Truman called it,” Lamb said. “Whenever one drop of American blood is shed, it’s a war.”
“Whoever doesn’t believe it was a war sure wasn’t with us in the trenches, dodging bullets,” Ed Meza, who served as an infantryman toward the end of the war, said.
Lamb spoke of an event he was at an American Legion hall in recent years where military members asked for veterans of World War II, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan to stand up and be honored ... and didn’t mention Korea.
“I asked the guy ‘what about Korea?’” Lamb said. “About 58,000 servicemen died in that war. Why weren’t we mentioned?”
Max Kassera, who spent 13 months as a crytographer with the Signal Corps, had a similar experience at a concert for veterans where veterans of several wars were asked to stand and be honored. Korea was never mentioned. The emcee then asked for veterans to stand as the branch of the service they were in had a song played.
“When they played the Army song, I refused to stand,” Kassera said. “My friend (encouraged me) and I refused in honor of those of us that were over there and paid the price.”
The three men believe that Korea has been forgotten in the minds of Americans, which is a shame. Many of the movies and TV shows, including the critically acclaimed “MASH,” were not an accurate representation of what went on over there.
Much of the conflict over Korea comes from the fact there was never an armistice or cease fire.
“The only way we knew it was over is from flying pieces of paper saying there had been a truce,” Meza said.
“There was still shooting going on when I left in March 1954 and it never really stopped,” Lamb said.
Both Lamb and Meza are from Texas while Kassera hails from Wisconsin. None of the three were prepared for the harsh climate over there but made the best of it.
“Being from Laredo, Texas, I had never seen snow before, “ Meza said with a laugh. “I made a snowball and rolled it in front of a sergeant, who asked where it came from as I was supposed to be on duty.”
“I must have failed geography because I thought Korea was supposed to be more of a tropical country,” Lamb said, smiling.
Lamb contends another problem in citing Korea as a war is one you may not think of.
“When troops came home from World War II, veterans were considered shell shocked. With Vietnam, it was Agent Orange. With Iraq and Afghanistan, it was Post Traumatic Stress Disorder,” Lamb said. “In Korea, we didn’t have anything like that. We simply came home.”
Kassera said there was no anomosity toward Americans by the Koreans in the years following the war.
“We didn’t worry about being mugged or really anything,” Kassera said. “The Koreans were very friendly toward Americans after things were done.”
In the years to come, the veterans hope Americans will remember the sacrifice made by all veterans.