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Massena pays tribute to veterans who lost their lives


MASSENA - Even though a ceasefire was declared on the Korean peninsula on July 27, 1953, the United States has still had its share of casualties on top of the thousands who died during the conflict, according to the commander of the local Korean War Veterans Association Post 284.

“We have lost nearly 1,200 men during this time of so-called peace,” as well as 90 who were taken prisoners of war, Herbert Spence told those who gathered in Massena’s Veteran’s Memorial Park on Monday for Memorial Day ceremonies.

This year is the 60th anniversary of the Korean War, a battle that claimed the lives of 36,000 American military, Mr. Spence said. He also noted that 7,000 military personnel are still missing, and more than 100,000 were wounded in the war.

“Freedom is not free,” he said.

Until 1950 when hostilities began, Mr. Spence said, “Korea was a country we didn’t know about, where we went to save people.”

On June 25,1950, North Korea, supported by the Soviet Union, invaded the south. Armed and trained with modern Russian weapons, they drove southward until forces pushed them back beyond the 38th Parallel and almost to the Yalu River. The People’s Republic of China then entered the war on the side of North Korea, with the Soviet Union providing material aid to both the North Korea and Chinese armies.

The United States provided 88 percent of the 341,000 international soldiers who aided the South Korea forces.

“The Russians never believed the United States would come to the aid of South Korea. They believed we were fed up with war,” Mr. Spence said.

President Harry S. Truman, however, went to the United Nations to ask for a resolution to go to the defense of South Korea.

“Twenty-one member nations (of the United Nations) served. Twenty-one nations provided troops. Because of that, Korea is now free,” Mr. Spence said. “

St. Lawrence County “played a large part in the Korean War,” Mr. Spence said, reading off a list of names of men from the county who had lost their lives in that conflict.

“Some of these names might be familiar to you because they might be related to you,” he said. “They gave their lives for the people of Korea.”

Quoting a passage from John 15:13 in the Bible, he said, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

The fighting ended on July 27, 1953, when the armistice was signed, restoring the border between the Koreas near the 38th Parallel and creating the Korean Demilitarized Zone.

“Communism never invaded any further because of the Korean War,” Mr. Spence said.

Massena’s Memorial Day remembrance began with a parade that stepped off at Sacred Heart Church and headed for Veteran’s Memorial Park on Andrews Street. Although it didn’t begin until 10:30 a.m., Main Street was already lined by 10 a.m. with spectators reserving their spots. They applauded as the first group of marchers - all veterans - passed them by.

“Memorial Day has traditionally been one of America’s most solemn and patriotic days. Since the beginning of the country, many men and women have given their lives. Today we honor the memory of those who gave their lives in service of their country,” Amvets Post 4 Commander Francis “Bud” Byington said once the parade was over and the marchers and spectators had moved to the park.

Every conflict has come with a heavy price - the loss of men and women on the battlefield, he said.

“Those of us who served.... know that freedom is anything but free,” he said.

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