Pelosi Remarks at Congressional Ceremony Commemorating the 60th Anniversary of the Korean War

Jun 24, 2010
Press Release

Contact: Brendan Daly/Nadeam Elshami/Drew Hammill, 202-226-7616

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Republican Leader John Boehner, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, and Members of Congress hosted a ceremony in the Capitol today to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Korean War. The ceremony honored the sacrifices of the thousands of Americans who courageously fought to defend freedom and safeguard peace and security on the Korean Peninsula. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

"Today, we mark a solemn anniversary for our nation, for the people of the Republic of Korea, and for the world. And we honor those who fought with bravery and valor in the Korean War.

"In the words of a resolution passed by the House last week, we recognize ‘the noble service and sacrifice of the United States Armed Forces and the armed forces of allied countries that served in Korea.’

"We are privileged to work alongside five Korean War veterans who came home from war and continued their public service in Congress. We have heard today from John Conyers, our patriot, Chairman Conyers, Chairman Rangel, Congressman Howard Coble, Congressman Sam Johnson—who has been referenced and is a great hero, a great American hero—and Senator Arlen Specter.

"And we are honored to be joined by the former Speaker of the House. He is the Chair of the Korean War 60th Anniversary Memorial Committee, Speaker Dennis Hastert. Dennis, thank you for being with us. We are also joined by the Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, General George Casey. General, welcome and thank you for being with us and for your service to our country. And Ambassador Han Duk-soo of the Republic of Korea. Welcome, Mr. Ambassador and your distinguished delegation.

"The Korean War, as my colleagues have said and as you all know, has often been called the ‘forgotten war.’ Yet today, and every day, we must remember the heroes who returned safely home and those who gave their ‘last full measure of devotion.’ All our nation’s veterans deserve our respect and our admiration as we honor our Korean veterans.

"The story of the Korean War is the story of heroism and selfless acts of patriotism.

"At the Memorial Day concert this year, we heard about the moving story of Private First Class Charlie Johnson, who gave his life saving nine others. As one fellow soldier, carried by Johnson to safety, later recounted: ‘There weren’t many men who made it off that hill. If Charlie hadn’t been there…I don’t think any of…us would have made it.’

"Mary Weiss Hester, flight nurse, she volunteered for the Air Force and became a flight nurse, tending to the wounded and caring for the injured. Mary’s story is the story of many women who served honorably in the Korean conflict.

"Lieutenant Colonel Frank Murphy, who two years ago met a man born in a small town in South Korea. Now a researcher at MIT, the gentleman from South Korea thanked Murphy, saying his life and success were only possible because of the American soldiers who fought in Korea. That friendship continues.

"Like so many others, these were stories of commitment, compassion, and courage; of men and women who served because that’s what their country asked them to do.

"Hearing my colleagues, Leader Boehner and Leader Hoyer, talk about that picture over, of the satellite, of the brilliance, South Korea by night and how dark and just ever infrequent a light is in North Korea. That picture is reflected on the ground in North Korea as well. I had the occasion to visit Pyongyang some years ago on an Intelligence Committee visit. And while I had seen the overhead and we continue to see it—and the contrast only grows greater over time—what we saw on the ground there, was the same thing in the faces of the people in Seoul and in South Korea and in other places there—the vitality, the entrepreneurial spirit, the sparkle, the industry, the children. It’s just so alive.

"And in Pyongyang, which we revisited, the capital of North Korea, there was a poverty of spirit. There was a dullness. There was a propaganda machine at work. And part of was that in our hotel room, Chairman Skelton, what we saw there were films, video, what did we call them then? Newsreels when we were kids. Newsreels of American soldiers in North Korea. And that’s what they showed the North Korean people over and over again: Americans in North Korea. And that was their excuse for not having enough food for the people because the Americans could be coming any time, so we had to keep the food for the military. And their people were starving. People were starving. Leader McConnell referenced the difference between freedom and communism, and it is very clear there, as clear as that overhead picture.

"Others have mentioned that it is etched into the marble of the Korean War Memorial, but I think it bears repeating: ‘Our nation honors her sons and daughters who answered the call to defend a country they never knew and a people they never met.’

"This same spirit – of duty and devotion to the cause of freedom – lives on in service members and veterans to this day. It is the greatest legacy of the people who stood on the Korean War’s front lines and our colleagues have the medal and the shrapnel to prove it.

"Today, we honor their sacrifice once more. We pledge to never forget them. We remember all they did for the American people and all they achieved for peace and liberty around the world. And, every day, General Casey, America is blessed by the men and women in uniform, who keep us safe at home, keep us the home of the brave and the land of the free.

"Thank you. Thank you all."