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U.S. Honors Korean War Veterans

July 27, 1998

WASHINGTON _ Veterans’ Affairs chief Togo West, marking the 45th anniversary of the Korean War armistice Monday, told veterans and their families that the nation should give thanks for Americans who fought for freedom half a world away.

``War is never a pleasant undertaking,″ West told several hundred people gathered at the Korean War Memorial with its bigger-than-life statues of soldiers on the National Mall. He said U.S. forces were sent on a mission to the Korean Peninsula to fight alongside ``people they had not met in a country they did not know to protect democracy there.″

``You, the veterans who served and sacrificed, you, the families who have suffered, demonstrated that the price of freedom will be paid by those who value it,″ West said. ``We gather here not to mourn those who died ... but to give thanks that they lived.″

President Clinton, in proclaiming Monday ``National Korean War Veterans Armistice Day,″ said ``the forgotten war″ is no longer forgotten thanks to the memorial, dedicated in 1995.

``America finally paid fitting tribute to those brave Americans whose devotion to duty wrote a crucial chapter in freedom’s history and whose valor and determination in battle laid the foundation for our nation’s ultimate triumph in the Cold War,″ Clinton said in his proclamation.

Just five years after World War II, communist North Korea invaded the South. American troops led a U.N. force to support South Korea. In more than three years of fighting, 5,000 Americans died. Another 8,000 are missing.

The 1953 armistice ended the fighting, but a formal peace pact has never been signed. Talks continue involving the two Koreas, the United States and China. Meanwhile, 37,000 U.S. troops help guard the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas, where 2 million soldiers are deployed.

South Korean Ambassador Lee Hong-koo also took part in the ceremony.

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