HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - It's often been referred to as the "forgotten war." But Saturday at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl, hundreds gathered to remember the Korean War, those who fought in it, and those who lost their lives fighting it.
"Sixty-one years ago today, one of the strongest alliances in modern history was born amidst disaster," said Lt. Gen. Francis Wiercinski, commanding general of U.S. Army Pacific, in his keynote address at the ceremony, which honored the veterans who fought in the war.
"During the time of the Korean conflict, so many people didn't understand it," Wiercinski said. "Even those fighting didn't understand it. Now, sixty years later we come to find out how much it really meant and how much it changed an entire country."
According to Korean government representatives in Hawaii, South Korea was left devastated and with little hope after the war, but still became a free and democratic country.
"The division of Korea that we witness today, and the freedom that exists in the south, is a living, breathing reminder to all of you who are veterans of that war as to what that sacrifice was for," Gov. Neil Abercrombie told the gathering.
Some of those veterans have had the chance to return to South Korea, and had nothing but praise for that country and its people.
"It's an absolutely marvelous country now," said veteran Ed "Doc" Brown, who was shot five times in the war. "The people are so overwhelmingly nice to the veterans. I mean, they say 'You're a veteran. Thank you.'"
Part of the thanks in Saturday's ceremony came in the form of wreaths, starting with one from the city and state governments. It was followed by fifty more, from the military and various Korean groups.
Many in the crowd remained mindful that there are still troops in South Korea, ready to defend a threat from the communist North.
"It's incredible that they stand on that wall every single day and have to be prepared tonight to defend and help our Korean partners," said Lt. Gen. Wiercinski, who returned to Hawaii Friday from a visit to South Korea.
"Korea and the United States will always work together," said South Korea Consul General Suh Young-Kil.
The ceremony also included a moment of silence for POW/MIA's from the war, a gun salute from Marine Force Pacific, and the playing of "Taps" by a bugler from the Marine Forces Pacific Band.