When the fighting in Korea stopped on July 27, 1950, a three- year war had come to a sudden end. The war was not officially over but both sides had agreed to a cease fire.
The men who stood at the front line could now stand at ease or in many cases, stand up in the open, and across from them stood thousands of soldiers from the People’s Volunteer Army from China. In amazement, the enemy seemed to have emerged from everywhere and in massive numbers. The war for those at the sharp end, was over and now they could go home, back to their families, and resume a way of life they once led.
Their time in Korea, where they fought on the “Strange Battleground”, had changed the lives of these men forever. They, like soldiers before them who fought in other wars, endured tremendous hardships, living outdoors in earth and timber bunkers, going on endless night patrols across no man’s land to keep the enemy on its toes. Sometimes their mission was to snatch an unwary Chinese soldier and bring him back for interrogation or they went on patrol just to see what the enemy was doing. The earlier stages of the war brought extra physical strain where the infantry constantly struggled to climb the many mountains and dislodge the enemy at the top, and then descend down the other side to tackle the next hill top. These men went to war and became hard, their bodies toughened up and became lean and they lived with the tense stress of being in danger.
When the firing stopped on July 27th, these men who had stood bravely in trenches and courageously walked silently at night through defensive mine fields in the dark night had been transformed. Their appearance had changed and so had their character. They had witnessed the death of their comrades, some men died from disease or accidents or from fatal wounds. Over 1,500 men became non fatal casualties and many more undoubtably suffered unseen injuries that would never heal and these wounds would be carried back to Canada and remain with each veteran until the very end of his life.
I’ve read many books about the War is Korea and spoken to many veterans and silently observed them and others. It seems that most Korean War veterans were shamefully ignored when they returned to Canada. There was generally no fanfare or parades awaiting them. They were not really acknowledged for having fought in a real war because less than 5 years before the Korean War began, Canada as a nation was involved in the Second World War, and that war far outshone everything else especially in the numbers of war dead. Veterans of that war were rightfully given many medals and one of these was the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal. It was awarded to service men and women who voluntarily served on active war service. Our Korean War Veterans were not only ignored by the general public but even by the Government of Canada who had sent them to war. Korean War veterans lobbied the federal government for their volunteer medal and The Canadian Volunteer Service Medal for Korea was finally issued in 1991.
The 71st Anniversary of the Cease Fire has now passed but every day those few remaining men and women who fought the war in Korea, continue to live with their personal struggles of having experienced things first hand that could never be forgotten. Our Korean War heroes fought to restore the peninsula back to being the land of the morning calm. They restored peace and I hope they are able to somehow be at peace and can reflect on the love and gratitude given to them by the Korean