ADRIENNE P. SAMUELS
Veterans who thought their service would be forgotten raised funds for a 31/2-ton memorial.
PINELLAS PARK - He had earned two Purple Hearts and was blinded in one eye, but when Richard Bohart returned home from Korea, he was shunned by a veteran's group.
That's what happened to those who fought in Korea, a war initially billed as a police action, Bohart said. So he was proud to brave Florida's blazing heat for three hours on Sunday to watch the unveiling of the Korean War Memorial in Pinellas Park.
Finally, 50 years to the day of the end of the three-year conflict, the forgotten war was remembered.
"This means a lot," Bohart said.
More than 1,000 people attended the memorial's dedication in Pinellas Park. Most were Korean War veterans, donning their medals and fanning themselves with fans emblazoned with the American flag.
The 31/2-ton granite memorial was more than two years in the making. The guys from the Florida Suncoast Chapter 14 of the Korean War Veterans Association decided that if they didn't do it, no one would.
"There's no one behind us," said Clarence Dadswell, a Korean War veteran who designed the memorial. "We knew that if we didn't have a memorial now, we wouldn't get one."
The Suncoast Chapter needed $30,000 for the memorial. They raised $50,000. The extra money will go toward a student essay contest to encourage children to learn about the war.
Several veterans gathered around the four-sided memorial, situated in Freedom Lake Park at 9990 46th St. N, and traded tales of being wounded by shrapnel and seeing entire companies disappear.
Some traveled from as far as New Jersey and Virginia.
Several Koreans and Korean-Americans attended the dedication. Some participated in a tae kwon do exhibition. A group of four ladies dressed in bright yellow Korean dresses performed on traditional drums.
"We were drumming for wishes of good future, especially for what is happening today," said Jaemin Kwak, of Palm Harbor, who is part of the One Dancers group.
Eugene Chae, 16, of St. Petersburg noticed that many people in the audience were using umbrellas to shield themselves from the sun. The thought made him smile. "It's a very Korean thing to do," Chae said. "This reminds me of Korea."
The Rev. Tae Cheong, leader of the Korean Presbyterian Church of Pinellas Park, addressed the crowd. "I have a fond memory of growing up with American soldiers," Cheong said. "I had my first sip of Coca-Cola and my first chocolate bar from them. ... South Korea today is a vibrant and prosperous society. Millions of Koreans abroad now live in gratitude."
- Adrienne Samuels can be reached at 727 445-4157 or email@example.com