The Korean conflict veterans drank sweet tea, lemonade and punch and they nibbled on cookies. They sang patriotic songs and saluted when their branch of the service was recognized.
They heard from keynote speaker retired Army Brig. Gen. Ernest Brockman of Charleston, who warned Saturday that America is in treacherous times.
Brockman referenced the famous quote of Winston Churchill, who was British prime minister at the time of the conflict — “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
He noted that the government is cutting back on military forces, training and equipment. Civilian leaders who lack battlefield experience are telling field commanders how to wage war. As a result, troops are fighting with one hand tied behind their backs, he said.
“And we wonder why we don’t win wars any more,” he said.
He said wars are not won by dying for your country. Instead, they hinge on forcing the opposition to die for their country.
Brockman spoke to a receptive audience of more than 300 veterans on the 60th anniversary of the Korean Armistice Agreement.
Those in attendance included Jack Lamb, 82, of Summerville, who said he still stays in touch with five of the men who served with him. They swap Christmas cards and talk on the phone once in a while.
Lamb was a squad leader in the 2nd Infantry Division. Conditions were harsh. He recalled not being able to bathe for 28 days. He lost one of his men on Pork Chop Hill, a controversial battle location because of the many soldiers who died over control of terrain of no strategic or tactical value.
“It’s nice to be back at something like this. They kind of forgot about us a little bit, you know,” he said.
The gathering of area Korea vets at the North Charleston Area Convention Center happened in a hall filled with war gear from that era, including grenades, jeeps, rifles, pistols and uniforms.
Some 483 servicemen from South Carolina were killed in three years of fighting in Korea that claimed more than 54,000 American lives.
“These men and women we will never forget,” said Sen. Tim Scott, R-Charleston.
Signed on July 27, 1953, the armistice agreement brought the brutal Korean conflict to an end and marked a conclusion to the longest negotiated armistice in history.
Talks took place during 158 meetings over two years and 17 days, while fighting continued to rage across the Korean Peninsula, according to information posted at the official home page of the U.S. Army.
The armistice agreement created the 155-mile-long by 2.5-mile-wide demilitarized zone that serves as a buffer zone and de-facto border between totalitarian North Korea and democratic South Korea. It also established the truce village of Panmunjom where negotiations are still held between the two Koreas.
“The Korean War conflict was not a war for our citizens. Congress never declared war,” Brockman said.
The armistice has never been followed by a peace treaty and the two Koreas are technically still at war. Officials said North Korea has violated the armistice thousands of times. More than 450 South Korean and 100 American troops have been killed in the line of duty during North Korean provocations since 1953.
As a part of the Republic of Korea-United States Alliance, 28,500 American troops still serve in South Korea to provide security on the Korean Peninsula and stability in Northeast Asia.