CONCORD - Seeking to right what they called a 61-year wrong, New Hampshire officials on Saturday held the state's first official welcome home ceremony for the state's veterans of the Korean War.
"We are proud that the state is officially saying 'welcome home,'" Gov. Maggie Hassan said during the ceremony, which was held at the New Hampshire National Guard aviation facility.
Americans entered into combat in Korea in 1950, five years after the end of World War II and shortly after North Korea invaded its neighbor to the south. The war ended in 1953, and its slot in history between World War II and the Vietnam War has it frequently called the "Forgotten War."'
Hassan told the crowd, which included dozens of the state's Korean War veterans, the war was never forgotten by those in its trenches.
"Instead, you carried the pain of the injuries you suffered, the memories of what you had endured and the belief that the very people you had protected did not fully appreciate your sacrifices," she said. "We gather here today to dispel the notion of the forgotten war."
Veteran Bob Courtemanche of Nashua said he was grateful the event was held.
"I thought it was awesome," he said. "It was a long time coming."
"I'm glad to have it," said veteran Henry Dessert of Lebanon. "I'm proud of it."Maj. Gen. Bill Reddel, the adjutant general of the New Hampshire National Guard, said most Americans identify the Korean War only by a hit TV series from the 1970s.
"M.A.S.H. is the view of the Korean War for most people," he said. "They don't understand the sacrifice that our Korean War veterans made."
The event also featured addresses by U.S. Rep. Ann McLane Kuster, U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte and the Korean Consulate General in Boston, Ohm Song-jun.
Ohm said the war should be given a new nickname.
"Your selfless bravery and heroic actions will always be remembered," he said. "Now we should change it to 'Victory well kept in mind.'"
Shaheen said South Korea is a vibrant democracy not under the autocratic rule of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un because of the veterans' efforts. "It exists because of what you all did," she said.
Ayotte said what strikes her about Korean War veterans "is that they don't talk about their service."
"Today we don't want to be quiet," she said. "Today we want to make sure you all know how much you mean to us and how much you have inspired us."
Kuster said the period following World War II is often remembered as "a free and prosperous time in American history. But these patriots, each and every one of you, traveled halfway around the world to serve our country and fight to protect our freedom and our prosperity."