New medal for Korea vets could take a year
Defense Department officials say it could take about a year to design, fund and issue a new medal for troops who served in South Korea after the war.
The Korea Defense Service Medal — authorized in the 2003 Defense Authorization Act — will be issued to servicemembers who completed tours of duty in South Korea, or adjacent waters, after July 28, 1954, when the military stopped issuing the Korea War Service Medal.
The medal was authorized after former soldier John Maclean told Congressman Elton Gallegly (R-Calif.) he was fed up with years of “lack of recognition and respect” for the time he spent in South Korea.
Maclean is among hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops who served in Korea since the mid-1950s. He was there from 1959 to 1960, patrolling the Demilitarized Zone, setting ambushes and staffing listening posts.
Like the 37,000 troops serving here now, he lived in the shadow of one of the world’s largest armies, under what the military considers hardship duty.
There have been 40,000 reported armistice breaches since 1953, according to U.S. Forces Korea. And more than 1,200 servicemembers have died on peacetime duty, including two U.S. soldiers killed by axe-wielding North Koreans in 1976.
According to a news release, the sheer number of anticipated recipients makes it difficult to estimate how long it’ll take to identify, notify and award the KDSM.
“We were the forgotten warriors of the forgotten war,” Maclean told Stars and Stripes. “We deserve this $1.50 medal.”