By BRIAN HAWKINS
A West Point bank president with more than 29 years of active service in the U.S. Army and the National Guard had a simple message Wednesday for local veterans of the Korean War: Their service will never be forgotten.
Retired Col. J. Dwight Dyess, president of BancorpSouth in West Point and a current civilian aide from Mississippi to Secretary of the Army John McHugh, addressed 22 local Korean War veterans and other community and Mississippi State leaders during a luncheon Wednesday at the university’s Colvard Union.
“The Korean War has often been called ‘The Forgotten War’ because it has been overshadowed by World War II and the Vietnam War,” said Dyess, whose role as a civilian aide means he advises McHugh, the chief of staff of the Army and senior Army commanders whose areas of responsibility involve Mississippi.
The Korean War, however, was much more significant than many realize, Dyess said.
“The Korean War thwarted the spread of Communism...,” Dyess said. “The Korean War is not a forgotten war. You Korean War veterans made a big, big difference, and America and the free world can never thank you enough.”
Though the war in Korea began on June 25, 1950, when forces from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) crossed the 38th Parallel and invaded the Republic of Korea (South Korea), the seeds of the war were planted in the aftermath of World War II, Dyess said.
The Korean peninsula had been ruled by Japan since 1910 until Allied forces depeated the island nation in 1945.
Following the Japanese surrender, American administrators divided the peninsula along the 38th Parallel (a degree of latitude), with U.S. troops occupying the southern part and Russian troops occupying the northern have.
The failure to hold free elections in 1948 in Korea deepened the division between the two sides, and the North established a Communist government supported by China and the Soviet Union, both Communist nations, Dyess aid.
Continuous attempts at reunification failed and border skirmishes persisted until the North Koreans invaded the South, crossing the border at the 38th Parallel. The United Nations — particularly the U.S. — jumped to South Korea’s aid in repelling the invasion, marking the first significant conflict of the Cold War era.
Fighting lasted until an armistice was signed on July 27, 1953, and the battles fought in the war were intense, Dyess said.
“The Korean War saw some of the most intense fighting ever experienced by American forces under some of the worst conditions ever,” Dyess said. “Some 37,000 Americans loss their lives before it was over.”
The war also saw many changes in modern combat, including the use of helicopters and the front-line treatment of the wounded, Dyess said. Integration of American fighting forces also occurred, he said.
Like the American armed forces veterans that came before them, Korean War veterans are “prime examples of courage and character,” Dyess said.
Wednesday’s luncheon — sponsored by the G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery Center for America’s Veterans at MSU — also saw the recognition of 23 local Korean War veterans, though 29 were invited.
Korean War veterans recognized during the luncheon for their service included John Albritton, Robert Anderson, John Burrell, Jack Coley, Louis Duncan, Sam Earnest, William Elam, Werner Essig, Lawrence Evans, William Harper, Roy C. Hendricks, Jerry C. Hunt, Col. Floyd Johnson, W.T. Keller, Joe Moorhead, Clinton Noe, J.T. Perkins, Henry Rone, Charles Sciple, Pat Swan, Earl Thomas, Grover Triplett and Ed Wallington.
Those unable to attend the luncheon but who also deserve recognition for their service include Albert Boyd, John Fulcher, Joe Hurst, Travis Phillips, Henry Pilkington, Murray Scoggins, Paul Sellars and Edward Springer.
Four Mississippi State departments — Event Services, Housing and Residence Life, Counseling Services and the Division of Student Affairs — were also recognized for efforts to help student veterans.
Wallington, speaking on behalf of his fellow veterans, urged those attending Wednesday’s luncheon to keep remembering the service of the nation’s military veterans.
“Do not let your patriotism die. That’s what we fought for, and we’re passing that torch to you,” said Wallington. “We love you and we love this great country.”