PTC Veterans Day event Nov. 13: ‘Forgotten War’

The featured speaker at Peachtree City’s 2010 Veterans Day commemoration no doubt subscribes to the adage that a nation which does not know its history is doomed to repeat it.

The event, to be held Saturday, Nov. 13, 10 a.m., in the Commemorative Air Force hanger at Falcon Field, will focus on a part of American history about which many people have little knowledge.

Steve Quesinberry is the Department Chair of History and Social Studies at Newnan High School. He will speak about the history of the Korean War, which started in June 1950 and, in reality, never really ended; it concluded in July 1953 with a cease fire and an armistice that drew a battle line at the 38th parallel, what has come to be known as the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). The DMZ is still actively patrolled on the north by the North Korean Army supported by China and to the south by Republic of Korea troops supported by the U.S. and U.N.

“The Korean War came about at a time of unprecedented prosperity in America, but also the beginning of a long era of uncertainty and apprehension,” said Quesinberry. “It was the first major test of the containment policy, but it also tested the concept of the United Nations and how that organization might effectively deter aggression.”

Quesinberry is a staunch proponent of involving veterans in his history classes. He started a highly successful program several years ago at Newnan High School called Student-Vet Connect. This program brings veterans to the students outside the classroom. Veterans set up displays of memorabilia and talk to students about it and their experiences.

“The program started small,” he recalls. “We used a room in the school building, but it got large enough to move it to the National Guard Armory next door and we’re using all the room there.” He adds that the program is held twice a year, in May and December. The last one held in May this year involved more than 80 veterans. The next one is scheduled for Dec. 10.

So successful is this program that it was imitated at an event on Oct. 16 in downtown Newnan, entitled Veterans Appreciation Muster. The event took place around all sides of the historic Coweta County Courthouse. Veterans set up their artifacts and told their stories to passersby, military and school bands and singing groups performed and the Sons of the American Revolution fired their blustering black powder rifles, among other activities.

A Chesapeake, Va., native Quesinberry earned a Master’s in Exercise Physiology from Georgia State in 1992 and in History Education from West Georgia College in 1993. He started with the Coweta County school system in 1985 teaching world history and physical education and coaching soccer. Among other accolades and awards, he was voted Newnan High’s Teacher of the Year in 1995 and 1998 and was head soccer coach there until 1999.

The Korean War shares as important a role in U.S. history as any of the other, more high-profile wars. Indeed, it was the first major conflict between the “Eastern Block” led by the Soviet Union and the “Western Block” led by the U.S. It was the foundation for the “containment” policy adopted by the U.S. and her allies after WWII. It began in earnest the “Cold War” era that started in 1946 and ended with the crumbing of the Soviet Union in 1991.

“The precedents set by this conflict reverberated through the rest of the 20th century and caused us to permanently station military personnel there for the rest of that century and into the next,” said Quesinberry.

Korean War veteran and noted historian, the late Harry G. Summers, Jr. once noted that the Korean War was “… one of the most significant wars of the 20th Century. It marked acknowledgement by the Kremlin that communism could no longer be spread by direct force of arms, as it had been spread across Europe in the closing days of WWII.”

Peachtree City’s 2010 Veterans Day remembrance will highlight the Korean War in observance of the 60th anniversary of the start of that war, which was the first major conflict of the Cold War.

This year’s event will be hosted by the Commemorative Air Force in their spacious hanger at Falcon Field and will be conducted by local VFW, American Legion and Marine Corps League veteran groups and the City Recreation Department. The event will include honors to the flag, taps will be played in honor of all veterans who have died and a commemorative wreath will be presented by local veterans groups.

Light refreshments will be available. Call the PTC Recreation Department at 770-631-2542 for more information.

The Korean War, sometimes referred to as the “Forgotten War,” began in June 1950 and ended in an armistice in July 1953. The U.S. Congress never issued a Declaration of War, officially calling it a “police action.” The reasons for the U.S. becoming involved are shrouded in the fog of the newly developing “Cold War” between world superpowers from the east and west.

In historical terms, the Korean War was sandwiched between two high-profile engagements; World War II and Vietnam, further relegating it inappropriately to a less prolific role in U.S. history.

However, in terms of human sacrifice, it was by no measure minor. By war’s end, 36,516 Americans were killed (including 2,830 non-combat deaths), 92,134 wounded, 8,176 MIA (missing in action) and 7,245 POWs (prisoners of war). In total, 15 western nations suffered nearly 800,000 in those categories and the three eastern block nations sustained between one million and 1.5 million.

Veterans Day in the U.S. is an opportunity to publicly commemorate the contributions of living veterans and remember the sacrifices of those who have died. Originally called Armistice Day, it officially received its name in America in 1926 through a congressional resolution. It became a national holiday 12 years later by similar congressional action.

If World War I had been “the war to end all wars,” Nov. 11 might be still called Armistice Day. Realizing that peace was equally preserved by veterans of World War II and Korea, Congress decided to make the day an occasion to honor all those who have served America. In 1954 President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a bill proclaiming Nov. 11 as Veterans Day. (Historically, the first Veterans Day parade was held in 1953 in Emporia, Kansas.)

A law passed in 1968 changed the national commemoration of Veterans Day to the fourth Monday in October. It soon became apparent, however, that Nov. 11 was a date of historic significance to many Americans. Therefore, in 1978 Congress returned the observance to its traditional date.

This article was written by Randy L. Gaddo, Director of Leisure Services for Peachtree City, Ga.