America's forgotten war was recognized and honored Tuesday in the Governor's Office.
To celebrate the designation of a Kansas City memorial as Missouri's official Korean War Veterans Memorial, Gov. Mike Parson hosted Kansas City Korean War veterans and memorial organizers at the Capitol.
"It's a great thing because it's often called the forgotten war, and you just can't forget. Gentlemen went over there in terrible conditions and did their job for us, just like every war since then and before then, and we need to pay homage to that," said Yvette Clifford, a Marine Corps veteran and memorial organizer. "It's just a touching time to see them get their recognition."
The memorial, located in Washington Square Park, was first dedicated in 2011 and became the state's official Korean War Veterans Memorial through legislative action earlier this year.
Debra Shultz, chairwoman of the Missouri Korean War Veterans Memorial, said the state's official designation has been a long time coming and was made possible because of state lawmakers.
"I'm glad that this took place, but I'm sad that it took us so long, because it's forgotten in so many ways," said state Rep. Mike Haffner, R-Pleasant Hill, who helped carry the bill in the House.
State Rep. Dave Griffith, R-Jefferson City, said Haffner offered to work on the project with him because he is chairman of the House Veterans Committee.
"The support that we've had throughout the entire process has been something that I've really appreciated," Griffith said. "Our Korean War veterans, we can't thank them enough. We can't thank any of our veterans enough."
State Sen. Mike Cierpiot, R-Jackson County, said he was honored to help get the legislation passed in the Senate.
Parson said the veterans uphold the meaning of what it means to be a public servant.
"It's not about the ranks, it's not about which branch of service, it's really being a public servant for people you're never going to see, never going to meet and you're going to sacrifice everything for those people," Parson said.
Parson, an Army veteran himself, congratulated the memorial's delegation for sticking with its efforts to earn the state's official designation and preserve part of the nation's history within Missouri.
"It was never really about when I wore the uniform. When I was 19 years old and I put that uniform on, it was about all the people that wore it before I did to be able to give me the opportunity to wear it," Parson said. "I think that's exactly what this memorial's going to set out to do — is make sure people remember you wore that uniform and all the people that wear it tomorrow and the future remember the past."
Shultz presented Parson, Haffner, Griffith and Cierpiot with medals for their efforts to make the memorial the state's official designation.
Parson presented each of the veterans and memorial organizers the state's Bicentennial coin and vowed to make a visit to the memorial soon.
Shultz said Tuesday's event was awe-inspiring.
"We've been working on this for several years, and it's only Sen. Cierpiot who got it done for us," she said. "Having this designation gives us a presence."
Shultz's father started the memorial efforts around 2004 but died before it was officially dedicated seven years later.
In addition to Korean War veterans, the memorial honors the 900 Missourians killed in action and the South Korean citizens considered survivors of the war.
The memorial's organizers included Yong Kim, a South Korean survivor who began hiding from opposition forces at the age of 12. He arrived in the United States as a student to study economics when he was 23, settling in Kansas City.
The Missouri Korean War Veterans Memorial is preparing to undergo its final round of fundraising at the beginning of next year.
There's one more phase of the memorial not yet constructed that will feature an American serviceman protecting a South Korean citizen with a small toddler, Shultz said.
That will take roughly a year to build.
Shultz said they are also trying to raise $1 million-1.5 million for grounds preparation and landscaping.