Though 59 years have come and gone since the Korean War, veterans can still recall what was going through their minds the moment they set foot onto foreign soil.
They remember the cold. They remember the hunger. And they still remember the deafening sound of their own pulses beating against their eardrums while they fought gallantly during the heart of an attack.
The Korean War, often referred to as “The Forgotten War,” lasted from June 25, 1950, to July 27, 1953. In the year 2000, there were 2.5 million Korean War veterans living in the U.S. But today that number has dwindled to nearly 600,000, and the number continues to shrink rapidly.
Every year could be the last opportunity to say thank you to the surviving veterans.
But even more importantly, every day could be the last chance to capture the veterans’ thoughts and experiences of the war on film to treasure and honor for years to come.
For the 60th anniversary of the war, Keon Lee, president of the Korean Association of Rome and Northwest Georgia, and Korean War veteran and Commander Charles Patterson are seeking other veterans to come out and share their experiences, artifacts, photographs and the like for their documentary, “The Forgotten Veterans of NW GA: The Korean War Veterans.”
To kick off the campaign, they will show their current documentary “The Forgotten Veterans of Floyd County: The Korean War Veterans,” on Saturday at 6 p.m. in the DeSoto Theatre. The event is free and open to the public. Members of the American Legion Post 52 will be selling popcorn and refreshments.
In 2011, Lee said he attended an American Legion meeting and saw veterans sitting together, passing around photos and sharing their war experiences. From there, Lee developed the idea to create a documentary of the Korean War, highlighting local veterans.
After contacting veterans with the help of Patterson, the documentary was made. The project took five months and the current documentary consists of 50 local Korean War veterans sharing their experiences. There are 628 slides, two videos and 11 interviews. The film is 85 minutes long.
But once the new material from more veterans is added, the new, longer and complete documentary will be shown at the DeSoto Theatre on the 60th anniversary in 2013.
Patterson said after the original documentary was completed and shown to the veterans at the end of last year, many others came up to him expressing that they regretted not contributing. Now, Lee and Patterson are offering those veterans a chance to come and share, adding pieces of themselves to history.
Lee said he thought some veterans might have been hesitant to remember and relive their war days.
“I would think the most experienced, and especially, the frontline soldiers had some horrible experiences,” Lee said. “And I would think they would not want to recall any nightmares like that. And I respect that. I wouldn’t want to dwell on any bad experience that may cause them to … relive something.”
Patterson said the veterans told him they simply didn’t know about the documentary or were unsure of what participating would entail.
“They didn’t know about it,” he said. “They’re hesitant. They just didn’t want to talk about it, and they didn’t know what they were doing.”
But both Lee and Patterson encourage veterans to speak up before it’s too late to share their stories.
“This project honors the service and sacrifices of Korean War Veterans and their families,” Lee said. “Because of those sacrifices, the Republic of Korea stands today as a powerful example of democracy and freedom.”
Lee said he and his son Andrew are inviting interested veterans to share their old photographs and any other artifacts for the presentation. They invite family members of lost veterans to participate as well. All things must be submitted by April 30, 2013.
“We would also like to reach out to veterans of the Korean War who are from the 15 (Northwest Georgia) counties that served in the war,” he said. “The film will be given to the veterans and families who participated as a gift and copies will also be available at the Rome-Floyd County Library. Your families can cherish memories of you and your comrades from one source and all of your heroic acts and memories will be preserved in a digital collage as a symbolic reminder of one’s sacrifices for the preservation of freedom.”
For questions about the Saturday showing of the current documentary or how to become involved with the new one, contact Patterson at 706-234-8424.