Canadian Korean War veterans march past the reviewing stand across from Parliament Hill. Inset: The artwork for the Korean War commemorative stamp is unveiled in Ottawa during a reception at the Embassy of the Republic of Korea.
Major events marking the 50th anniversary of the Korean War armistice continued throughout the summer and included a poignant ceremony at the National War Memorial and the unveiling of an anniversary stamp that pays tribute to the men and women who served in Canada’s “forgotten” war.
The June 29th ceremony and stamp unveiling attracted hundreds of veterans who fought in the war. Altogether, 26,791 Canadians served in Korea from 1950 to 1953. Another 7,000 Canadians served in the theatre between the signing of the Korea Armistice Agreement on July 27, 1953, and the end of 1955. Canada’s casualties totalled 1,558, and the Korea Book of Remembrance in the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill contains the names of 516 war dead.
Other major commemorative events during the summer included the National Ceremony of Remembrance at the Korea Veterans National Wall of Remembrance in Brampton, Ont., July 27 and a Veterans Affairs Canada-sponsored pilgrimage to the Republic of Korea.
Approximately 200 veterans marched to the National War Memorial for the June commemorative service. They paraded past Canadian and Republic of Korea government officials, representatives of Canada’s veterans organizations and officials from numerous other nations who participated as part of the United Nations Command forces during the war.
The Act of Remembrance was read by retired major Walter Conrad and retired lieutenant-colonel Roger Beauregard of the Korea Veterans Association’s National Capital Unit. Wreaths were placed on the steps to the memorial, while music of the Central Band of the Canadian Forces played in the background.
Connor Shram of Warman, Sask., placed a wreath on behalf of the youth of Canada. The Grade 10 student was the winner of a VAC commemorative writing contest. “A hero is not measured in terms of strength, in terms of size or in terms of importance to the cause,” he wrote. “A hero is measured by bravery, and the bravery our veterans have surpasses anything else deserving of honour when we as a nation look back at our past.”
The final wreath was placed before the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier by Korea Veterans Association National President Dave Davidson and KVA National Capital Unit President Harold True. It was placed for all Korean War veterans in Canada.
The artwork for the commemorative stamp was unveiled at a reception at the Embassy of the Republic of Korea hosted by Ambassador Ki-ho Chang. “I was in Korea when the guns fell silent on the 27th of July 1953,” explained Davidson during the unveiling. “I can assure you that this is the most pleasant sound your ears will ever hear, the silencing of the guns of war. This stamp is a tribute to our comrades who paid the supreme sacrifice during the war. A half-century has passed but the families of our fallen comrades still shed tears in remembrance of those loved ones who did not return.”
Ambassador Chang said Canada’s Korean War veterans command the respect of two nations along with that of their fellow comrades in arms. “Through their gallant service they distinguished themselves in battle and in reconstruction. The people of the Republic of Korea will never forget the struggle Canadian soldiers waged on their behalf, in the name of freedom.”
He said he hopes the stamp will inspire remembrance of the war, and most importantly of the soldiers who gave so willingly of themselves, and “brought great honour to their nation.”
Another major tribute to Canada’s Korean War veterans is scheduled for Sept. 28. That is when a bronze sculpture–the Monument To Canadian Fallen –will be dedicated in downtown Ottawa by Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and Heritage Minister Sheila Copps. The event is expected to attract more than a thousand Korean War veterans from across Canada.
Retired colonel Chip Bowness, chairman of the Canadian Korean War Commemoration Committee, said in mid-July that the monument will be located on the north escarpment of Confederation Park, within view of the Parliament Buildings. He described it as an “echo copy” or replica of the life-size monument unveiled in the United Nations Memorial Cemetery in Pusan, South Korea, on Nov. 11, 2001. It features an unarmed Canadian soldier and two South Korean children. Bowness said the monument, paid for by veterans, will be situated so that it faces Korea.
The original monument was conceived and designed by Korean War veteran Vince Courtenay of Windsor, Ont. The bronze statue and base were sculpted by Yoo Young-mun who lives in South Korea.
Courtenay and the artist began work on the replica in February 2002, and after six weeks of collaboration, it was shipped by air to Canada and later erected for temporary public display at Windsor.
In Ottawa, the monument will rest on a granite plinth provided by the Republic of Korea.
Bowness said the committee has benefited from a lot of volunteer help, including from many Korean War veterans. He said support from the federal government has been fantastic. He thanked the Department of Canadian Heritage, the National Capital Commission, Veterans Affairs Canada, the Department of National Defence, the Department of Foreign Affairs, and Public Works and Government Services Canada.