Survivor shares story
Korean War veteran Clifford L. Petrey didn't compose a speech to mark the 60th anniversary of the start of the Korean War Friday.
The founding member of the local chapter of the Korean War Veterans Association and the guest speaker for the group's commemoration at the memorial outside the Killeen Civic and Conference Center said he wanted his remarks to be "impromptu" as he told his story.
Petrey's story ran from June 25, 1950 — the day his regiment learned they would be leaving Japan to help liberate Seoul from the North Korean army — through being twice wounded in action, to his 32 month and 10 day stay as a Prisoner of War of the Chinese army. He faced lice, harsh winter and lost 40 pounds off his 120 pound frame on inconsistent meals of millet.
"I survived," he said. "I wore the uniform for 29 years and would be in today if they would have me."
"Little did I realize what we were accomplishing until years after I left Korea."
The American and South Korean flags flew over the ceremony as members of the veterans association, city officials and a few members of the community gathered in the late evening light to honor the veterans of the Korean War, the 37,000 Americans lost in the war and those still listed as missing in action. The war ended with the signing of the Korean War Armistice Agreement on July 27, 1953.
Seoung Lim, the president of the Korean American Association of Killeen, and his wife came to the ceremony to celebrate with the veterans and remember, he said. Lim was a "war baby," born in South Korea in 1951. He came to America and Killeen in 1976.
"Today, the Korean people enjoy freedoms and also are very prosperous economically because of the sacrifice of the American soldiers," he said.
Lim said he wished more members of Killeen's Korean community — estimated at around 6,000 during the event — had come out to mark the anniversary.
"I think it is a little sad," he said. "Next year, we will work a little harder to get more people out here."
Leaders of the veteran's association thanked the members and the audience for their support. The association sends funds raised to the national organization and helps veterans on a case by case basis, but is also currently raising funds for a monument at the cemetery, said chapter secretary Maureen Jouett.
"It truly is the forgotten war," she said during the ceremony. "The freedom we enjoy today is from the veterans of yesterday."
Mayor Timothy Hancock, a veteran who served in Korea after the ceasefire, thanked the veterans for their service 60 years ago and their accomplishments with the veterans organization today.
"When you stop a war and when you stop a progression, it's stopped. We might not be a free country today if not for the veterans," he said. "As long as you keep this organization going, there is a chance that we will continue to remember what you have done, and will continue to remember what can be done."