Monday, May 25, Memorial Day, is a time of – and for – solemnity to honor our distinguished fallen “heroes.” A “hero,” in this sense, is any member of the Armed Services valiantly executing his (or her) duties, sometimes wondering “why;” for, at times, it seemed so foolish, so worthless, and so wasteful. But, the courageous service member performed – sometimes at the cost of his (or her) own life.
As we approach the 70th anniversary of the start of the Korean War, the Demilitarized Zone – the “DMZ” – separating North and South Korea allows one to fully comprehend the true meaning of Memorial Day. It reinforces the important lesson that the blessings of liberty come at a great cost.
The “DMZ,” the final frontier separating liberty from tyranny, serves as a grim reminder that the acrimonious flames of the “Cold War” have yet to be fully extinguished. An eerie, thunderous silence haunts the narrow strip of land that divides the prosperous south from its bellicose neighbor to the north.
On June 25, 1950, well equipped military forces from a Soviet-backed North Korea invaded the South. By that time, considering the events that had just occurred in Europe, the Western World had become more aware, more concerned, and more apprehensive about the aggressive and oppressive maneuverings of rogue nations. Consequently, led by the United States, the Allied World responded to the North’s aggression. By the time the armistice was signed on July 27, 1953; some 37,000 U.S. and 138,000 South Korean Military Members had given their lives to defend and secure freedom on the Korean peninsula. Their ultimate sacrifices were not in vain!
Today, the Republic of Korea stands as a living testimony to the sacrifices made during the Korean War. The Republic of Korea is a miraculous success story! Antiquated infrastructures have succumbed to modern technological developments. Parochial economic systems have acquiesced to expanding interest and active participation in international markets, to the extent that the Republic of Korea has the 12th largest economy in the world.
Without the hardships endured by U.S. Service Members heroically executing their duties in places such as the Busan Perimeter, the Chosin Reservoir, Heartbreak Ridge, and Pork Chop Hill; South Korea would have been denied the opportunity to emerge as a free, independent, and self-determined nation.
Over the years, we have corrupted this day of reverence into just another national holiday. Sadly, we have a tendency to take for granted the ultimate sacrifices that brave individuals have made to preserve those endearing and enduring freedoms and liberties that all of us enjoy.
On this Memorial Day, we should remember the valuable lesson of the Korean War: Freedom is never free. We should take some time to reflect on those brave individuals of the Armed Services who died so we can continue to enjoy the blessings of liberty and live in freedom.
John Di Genio