As a crowd of more than 100 people watched, Korean War veterans were honoured in downtown Ottawa Sunday at two commemorative ceremonies marking the 58th anniversary of the Korean War Armistice.
“We’ve called it, for many years, the ‘forgotten war,’ yet we’ve lost 516 people there,” said army veteran Charles Belzile, 78, after the wreath-laying ceremony at the National War Memorial.
The Honourable Sung Choon Park, Minister of Patriots and Veterans Affairs for the Republic of Korea, presented “Ambassador of Peace” medals to 11 veterans.
In 1950, South Korea was invaded by Communist North Korea and more than 26,000 Canadian men and women served with the United Nations forces who went to war to free South Korea.
Roughly 7,000 more Canadians served between the signing of the Armistice in 1953 and the end of 1955.
Belzile shipped out in 1954, when he was 21-years-old.
“Those of us that were less involved in the actual fighting, we still lost a few people,” he said.
“Even clearing mines, if you make a mistake, you’re gone.”
Some Canadian troops were in Korea until 1957.
Bill Black, also 78, is president of the Ottawa chapter of the Korean War Veterans Association.
He joined the Navy in 1951 and recalls working 12-hour days in 120 degree heat on a ship with no air conditioning.
The ship was, “very narrow, 38-feet wide, very crowded,” he said.
“We slept in hammocks.”
The annual event brings back memories for Black, who says it’s important to honour “not only the Canadian war dead, but the war dead from other nations.”
The names of the 516 Canadians are inscribed in the Korean War Book of Remembrance at the Peace Tower.