Above: The Korean War Veterans Memorial with the Korean War Service Ribbon
Photos via Wikipedia
Today, June 25, 2014 marks the 64th anniversary of the Korean War. It started June 25, 1950 when North Korean forces, backed by the Soviet Union and The Peoples Republic of China, rolled south across the 38th parallel, the line separating North Korea from South Korea. The North was formed under the Soviet/Chinese model of “Communism,” in that one guy was the master of all and all the common folk suffered equally. In China it was Mao Zedong and in the Soviet Union it was Josef Stalin, two of the worst dictators to ever inhabit the planet.
Our American troops went from peacetime to wartime in no time — under-manned, under-equipped and under no illusions. Our political leaders were filled will illusions, which is why our troops were ill-prepared for warfare in a mountainous region that would soon become so cold it was a more deadly enemy than the North Koreans.
And here’s the thing: we never prevailed in that war. A stalemate was reached in 1953 and a cease-fire was signed. Since then the two Koreas have been separated by a hotly patrolled fenced no man’s land called “The 38th Parallel,” the center of which is Panmunjon, the famous border crossing between North and South Korea.
To this day we have more than 25,000 combat-ready troops stationed in South Korea, most of them near the dreaded 38th Parallel, waiting for that moment some crazy North Korean leader decides the armistice is over and restarts the fighting.
As long as there are two Koreas we will have troops in South Korea — a lot of them. Our troops, with their superior equipment and training is the primary deterrent keeping the North Korean military north of No Man’s Land.
I mention this for two reasons: number one: the Korean War was dubbed “The Forgotten War” because for so many decades we didn’t talk about that war, we didn’t commemorate it or the men and women who served during that war; we just swept it under the rug. It was the first war our United States didn’t decisively win so who wants to remember that?
But, like all wars, the people who actually went to Korea and fought against the North Koreans and Chinese; their families and friends, they don’t forget the war.
So today I mention the Korean War, remembering the men and women who served, especially the 54.246 U.S. service men and women who were killed, the 100,000-plus wounded and 8,176 that are still missing in action. If you are close to Washington, D.C., stop at the Korean War Memorial in West Potomac Park, just southeast of the Lincoln Memorial.
The second reason for this blog post is Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson. He recently said he couldn’t support the Sanders bill that would give more than 35 billion dollars to Veterans Affairs so they can build 26 new medical facilities and hire more medical personnel to take care of the hundreds of thousands of new vets coming into the system, as well as the veterans, like me, who have been in the system since Vietnam, Korea and World War II.
Republican Ron Johnson, who was born into money and never once had to live on the economic margins of society; a U.S. Senator who promotes the wacky ideals of a fictional novel called Atlas Shrugged, thinks taking care of our nation’s veterans “costs too much.”
Sixty-four years ago the V.A. was under-funded (as was the military) when our men and women were sent to Korea to fight; it was under-funded 49 years ago when we officially started combat operations in Vietnam and today, 11 years after the NeoCons of the Bush Administration started their war in Iraq, it is still under-funded. But the U.S. Senate wants to take a small first step to correct that problem. Except for Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and two of his Republican colleagues.
This is the same senator who says we should have kept American troops in Iraq so they could be fighting the ISIL insurgents rolling through that country.
He no doubt would have found a way to pay for that — or revert to form and just wage war on the nation’s credit card, like the GOP did when starting the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Maybe he thinks Atlas will shrug another trillion to pay to keep tens of thousands of troops in Afghanistan and Iraq as occupation forces.
We now have tens of thousands of troops based in Japan, Europe and South Korea, helping protect our allies from aggressive neighbors that have invaded in the past.
The Republican idea is to create the same type of situation in Afghanistan and Iraq, leaving battle-weary men and women in place to prop up regimes that, unlike South Korea, Japan and Germany, cannot support themselves and most likely do not want a western-style democracy.
That all costs money of course, money Senator Johnson doesn’t want to spend, especially not for the nation’s vets. He and his two fellow Republicans, Bob Corker of Tennessee and Jeff Sessions of Alabama, think our nation’s veterans cost too much.
It’s something to think about today as we mark the 64th Anniversary of the Korean War — the Forgotten War. Maybe if we forget about the hundreds of thousands of new veterans entering the V.A. system, or more accurately, trying to enter the V.A. system, they will just disappear.
Tim Forkes started as a writer on a small alternative newspaper in Milwaukee called the Crazy Shepherd. Writing about entertainment, he had the opportunity to speak with many people in show business, from the very famous to the people struggling to find an audience. In 1992 Tim moved to San Diego, CA and pursued other interests, but remained a freelance writer. Upon arrival in Southern California he was struck by how the elected government officials and business were so intertwined, far more so than he had witnessed in Wisconsin. His interest in entertainment began to wane and the business of politics took its place. He had always been interested in politics, his mother had been a Democratic Party official in Milwaukee, WI, so he sat down to dinner with many of Wisconsin’s greatest political names of the 20th Century: William Proxmire and Clem Zablocki chief among them. As a Marine Corps veteran, Tim has a great interest in veteran affairs, primarily as they relate to the men and women serving and their families. As far as Tim is concerned, the military-industrial complex has enough support. How the men and women who serve are treated is reprehensible, while in the military and especially once they become veterans. Tim would like to help change that.