The Veterans of Foreign Wars canteen in Ripon serves as a second home for many surviving GIs who served their country and in many cases paid a horrible price for freedom – a freedom that many of us take for granted.
They are the soldiers, sailors and Marines who remember the conflicts from years ago.
Out of sight, out of mind is a state of being for all of us who think more about sports and such while giving little thought to the veterans who still relive their battles and — for some —the tortures of prisoner of war camps.
The VFW Post on West Ripon Road is open to veterans 24/7 where they can mix with comrades that understand what they have been through. The Ripon community has one POW from the Korean conflict who still can’t face talking about his tour of duty in the early ’50s – a so-called police action. Many of the American GIs of that campaign have since passed away.
The South Korean government believes some 560 of their soldiers still survive in North Korea that were not released in the Armistice of 1953. There have also been reports that several hundred American POWs may not have been returned to the U.S. as well.
That military effort may have gone into the history books, but some of those vets are walking the streets with their memories still fresh in their minds and still haunting them as are the scattering of WW II vets.
A little research on Google this week opened my eyes to what the combat veteran of Korea actually had to go through and the unbelieveable tortures they endured in captivity prior to being shot point blank on the edge of hastily dug ditches that became their burial places. The stories were confirmed in print by the few who had been able to escape their captors.
“The Bamboo Spear Case” was one such documented event completely ignored the Geneva Convention. It was late December 1950 when five American airmen in a truck convoy were ambushed by North Korean forces. Their bodies, discovered shortly afterwards by a South Korean patrol, showed that the flesh had been punctured in as many as 20 different areas with heated, sharpened bamboo sticks. The torture was so fiendish that no one perforation was sufficient to cause death by itself.
Lt. Col. James T. Rogers, who served in the medical section of the First U.S. Army Corps in Korea, testified that his medical examination of the five men showed they suffered multiple, superficial and deep spear wounds over the body, face, chest and abdomen. After their torture they had been bayoneted with the same instruments and allowed to bleed to death.
Nearly 2,000 Americans remain unaccounted for from the Korean War. With the use of modern technology, identification of remains continue to be made by what has been turned over by the North Korean officials or what was located by American teams.
More than 83,000 Americans are still listed as missing from World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War, the Vietnam War and the 1991 Gulf War. Hundreds of Defense Department staffers continue to their dedication of personnel recovery efforts around the world.
So, when you see a man walking down the street with a military baseball cap that reads Korean Veteran, World War II, Vietnam, Gulf War, Iraq or Afghanistan take a moment to smile, shake their hand and thank them for their courage in defending our country. Many of them have witnessed combat and have seen their buddies killed in action as well as having suffered grave, disabling injuries themselves.
All those vets were there for the rest of us. Thank them when you see them on the street. Let them know they are not forgotten.