November 30, 1950, was a living nightmare. My fellow soldiers and I were trekking across the frozen Ch'ongch'on River, consumed by the deafening claps of gunfire. My division was soon bombarded by the Chinese. In the battle of Kunu-ri, more than 5,000 American soldiers were killed, wounded or taken as prisoners of war. Ninety percent of my unit was killed. Little did I know, back then, that we were stopping communism.
At the time, I was alerted that we were going off to Korea because General McArthur needed us and Harry Truman made a promise to the United Nations. Most of us had no idea where Korea was but we knew one thing -- the flag was waving, so we moved forward to protect it.
Nearly a month after the war began on June 25, 1950, South Korean forces were cornered in the southern region of the peninsula near Pusan. American forces pushed the enemy to the 38th parallel, a line that has separated more than ten million Koreans.
Over the course of the relatively short and bloody "Forgotten War," about two million Americans served with at least 54,000 killed, 100,000 wounded and up to 8,176 recorded missing or captured. Unfortunately, many of the veterans who returned were not given the same level of recognition as the "The Greatest Generation," primarily because the Korean War was sandwiched between World War II and the Vietnam War.
Six decades later, the Two Koreas remain the only divided nation in the world. Today, about 28,500 U.S. military personnel remain stationed in South Korea near the Demilitarized Zone, the most heavily armed border in the world.
Since the Korean War, U.S. and South Korea have established an enduring friendship with shared interests, such as denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, combating aggression abroad and developing our economies. I am proud that it has grown into an influential, international leader, belonging to some of the same international organizations and hosting global summits. Its development as an economic and political leader testifies to the victorious efforts of American soldiers, who fought alongside 20 other member states of the United Nations.
All of us veterans recognize that we were spared, so we think about those who lost their lives. To honor the legacy of veterans and the democratic principles they fought for, I am glad that I introduced the Korean War Veterans Recognition Act which was enacted in 2009. I also recently authored a resolution to encourage peace and reunification on the Korean Peninsula.
We cannot forget the significant efforts of our veterans and I thank President Barack Obama and Secretary Chuck Hagel for honoring my comrades on the 60th anniversary of the Korean War Armistice.
Out of the ashes of a dark past, rises, a close ally, one of wealthiest countries and one of the firmest democracies has been established. Such progress is a testament to the victorious contributions of our Korean War veterans.
As the nation commemorates the 60th anniversary of the Korean War Armistice on July 27, we must remember the sacrifices of our veterans, American men and women who served in Korea since the war and our heroes who never returned home.