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Fort Wayne visitor working to put Korean War, veterans’ service back on the public’s radar

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The Korean War often is referred to as the “Forgotten War” because it frequently gets much less attention than the two world wars that preceded it and the Vietnam War after it.

Hannah Y. Kim is out to change that, including making a stop for a ceremony at 11 a.m. Monday at the Korean War Memorial in Concordia Cemetery Gardens on Lake Avenue in Fort Wayne.

“I call all Korean War veterans my Grandpas not because they are old but because I would not be here without them,” Kim, 35, said during a phone interview Thursday with News-Sentinel.com.

At the time, she was driving from Lexington, Ky., to her next stop in Charleston, W. Va. She plans to travel about 15,500 miles to all 50 U.S. states to visit Korean War memorials there and to thank veterans for their service in the fighting from June 1950 to July 1953.

Her visit to Indiana, which will be her 36th state, will include stops in Indianapolis and Marion on Sunday before she arrives Sunday night in Fort Wayne. The date of the memorial ceremony here Monday — June 25 — is the anniversary date of the start of the war.

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TAKING ON A MISSION

Born in what is now South Korea, Kim was age 6 when her parents came to the United States in search of a better life for their family. The family settled in Los Angeles and became U.S. citizens.

As a young adult, Kim worked in Washington, D.C., on the staff of now-retired U.S. Rep. Charles B. Rangel of New York, who is a Korean War veteran.

She began planning Korean War memorial events 11 years ago in Washington. In 2008, at age 24, she created Remember727, a nonprofit organization that works to honor Korean War veterans and to create greater awareness about the war and their service, it said on the organization’s .

Last year, Kim visited the 26 countries whose forces participated in the Korean War and recorded the stories surviving veterans, the website said.

She set off April 27 on her trip to visit all 50 U.S. states. The route will put her at the Korean War Memorial in Washington, D.C., on July 27, which is the anniversary date of the armistice that ended fighting, she said.

REMEMBERING THEIR SERVICE

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Along the way, Kim also hopes she can inspire donations to the Korean War Veterans Memorial Foundation, which is trying to raise money to maintain the Korean War Memorial in Washington and to build a Wall of Remembrance at the site.

The wall will list the names of the 36,574 Americans who died during their Korean War service, it said on the Remember727 .

In addition, more than 100,000 U.S. military personnel were wounded during the war, and nearly 8,000 remain unaccounted for, the website said.

Kim said her trip has brought her in contact with sisters and daughters who still are grieving or longing for men who died or never returned.

Her visits also have been very emotional for Korean War veterans.

“When they meet me, they cry. They all cry,” she said.

They are shocked someone has come to thank them for their service, she said. For many, it also brings back memories of the combat and losses they endured during the war.

“Another thing we do not think about is they were young,” she said, adding most Americans who fought were ages 17-20.

LASTING IMPACT

At a minimum, she hopes her visits encourage people — especially younger people — to visit their community’s Korean War Memorial on Memorial Day and Veterans Day, she said.

“We, the younger generation, we do have a responsibility at the very least to remember,” she said.

She’s also hopeful the recent meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will lead to a peace agreement.

“That would bring so much closure to the veterans and also to the families of the POWs and MIAs,” she said, referring to prisoners of war and those missing in action.

Hannah Kim said she has heard so many amazing stories and learned so much during her stops to thank and visit with Korean War veterans.

“There is not only pain,” she said. “There is so much that goes on for a freedom. There is a sacrifice that has been made for everything we have.”

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© 2018 The News-Sentinel (Fort Wayne, Ind.)

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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