(Stay Tuned Audio of this Tribute Coming Soon)
The question, “Where is the tribute to veterans of Korea?,” will not be asked by visitors of The Highground Veterans Memorial any longer. The tribute takes it’s place on the plaza and was dedicated 7/28/2007. “The park has tributes to veterans of WWI, WWII, Vietnam, Gold Star Mothers, Prisoners Of War, those Missing In Action, and Native Americans,” said Gary Corey, Korean combat veteran. “Hard to believe Korean veterans were not represented.”
Disappointment and disillusionment were often the reaction of Korean veterans visiting The Highground. The lack of a tribute to their service only reinforced their sense of being overshadowed by public response to WWII and Vietnam.
Corey, who once asked “Why not Korea?, is one of the twenty plus Korean veterans serving on the committee to bring a Korean tribute to The Highground. It was the answer to “who decides what tributes can be placed here?” that surprised Corey and other Korean veterans.
According to volunteer general manager Kirk Rodman, neither the staff nor the Highground Board can arbitrarily decide to establish a tribute here. “Our charter allows veterans of 20th and 21st century conflicts to request a tribute here,” he said, “But they must form their committee, organize, plan, implement, and raise funds for the effort”
At first, the policy seemed designed to make adding tributes a difficult process, however, as members of the Highground Board remind people, only the men and women who were in Vietnam or Korea or WWII or Desert Storm or Iraq can define their experience, only they know what they need to see and feel in a tribute to bring them a sense of peace.
Korean combat veteran Rae Kohn agrees with that policy. “If you weren’t there, how can you know what it was like for us?” Kohn, chair of the committee, speaks to groups about his experiences in Korea and continues to look for ways to make more people aware of “The Forgotten War”.
“I didn’t think anyone could design a tribute that would reflect the important things about Korea, but this one comes close,” Kohn said. The committee’s guidelines for this tribute called for life-sized figures; expressions of extreme heat and cold; the location of Korea and of the 38th parallel; and the lack of resolution.
The costs will exceed $200,000, the tribute reflects the difficult conditions experienced by the men who fought in places with names like Heartbreak Ridge. The tribute will be comprised of three figures placed on a platform in the shape of Korea surrounded by water. A fountain will be part of the central figure, while the entire tribute will rest within a circle defined by the well-known symbol of ying-yang. The designer, Michael Martino, resides in La Crosse, works with many mediums, and participates in snow-sculting competitions worldwide.
“This addition will fill a historical gap among our tributes and help rectify the reputation of the Korean Conflict as the “Forgotton War”, Kirk Said