This Veteran’s Day, I want to thank all of those who have warn the uniform in service to our nation. Every November 11 we come together to honor their service and their sacrifice. And most important, to thank them.
For Korean War veterans, this year also brings very special significance as it marks the 60th anniversary of the Korean War Armistice.
For too long, the Korean War has been dubbed by some as the “forgotten war.”
Fortunately, thanks to several Kansans and other Korean War veterans from around the country, that is changing. They have worked hard to forever commemorate the service and sacrifice of one soldier, Father Emil Kapaun of Pilsen, Kansas. Just this year, Father Kapaun was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, our nation’s highest award for bravery, for his courage in Korea.
Kapaun served during World War II and then again in the Korean War where he was chaplain of the 8th Cavalry Regiment of the First Army Division. He was taken prisoner in the Battle of Unsan for which he posthumously was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his life-saving efforts. But Kapun’s bravery did not end there.
Fellow soldiers say he saved hundreds if not thousands of lives in prison camps. He escaped to steal food from nearby farms to bring back to starving prisoners, and cared for the sick and injured. He died as a prisoner in May 1951 after enduring illness, torture and terrible conditions.
His fellow soldiers who survived this camp came home to credit their lives to Kapaun’s inspiration by fighting for his service to be honored. I was proud to pass legislation to help them succeed.
It is the tributes like these and the monuments to veterans around our nation that not only memorialize those we have lost, but offer reflection and solace for those that have served.
That is why it was so important to me, many others in Congress and veterans and their families from around the country that we keep the monuments open during the government shutdown. I didn’t believe there was any justification to block the monuments to the thousands of veterans, including several Honor Flights, who wanted to see their memorials.
It’s a shame that, once again, we had to call upon our vets to fight for their rights and freedoms. But what a great sight it was too see one Sunday morning when thousands of people came together to re-open the World War II monument.
It is our reverence for veterans and their work in defense of our freedom that makes our nation great. Those who have fought for us in all campaigns deserve this and so much more.
My Veterans Day challenge to you is to learn about Father Kapaun and the so-called “forgotten war,” and maybe, we can honor these veterans by removing that unfortunate description of their service and sacrifice in the mountains of Korea.
Again, thank you to all of our men and women in uniform for your service and courage. And from this Marine, Semper fi.