To honor local Korean War veterans, Shawnee's Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1317 hosted its sophomore Korean Veterans Recognition Day on Saturday.
To honor local Korean War veterans, Shawnee’s Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1317 hosted its sophomore Korean Veterans Recognition Day on Saturday.
Zona Cockrell, a veteran advocate, commenced the event with a straightforward address.
“You Korean veterans, you were forgotten about, completely,” she said. “We have 7,883 that are still missing.”
Cockrell’s husband, Charles, of the U.S. Marine Corps, had served in Korea. Last year, she had a bench installed at the Veterans Memorial at Woodland Veterans Park in his memory, and for the memory of all Korean War veterans.
“I don’t want you forgotten,” she told Saturday’s group. “This is my work.”
A dozen veterans were present, in addition to several supportive loved ones.
“It doesn’t look like much, but it has tripled this year,” Cockrell said of the turnout.
Cockrell wants the gathering to become an annual event, since the area is losing so many veterans.
“But at the same time, about every 3 or 6 months, I’d like for all of us to get back together, just for a social afternoon, just to sit and visit and relay all the stories you all know,” she requested of the service members. “Because I myself, I’m still learning.”
There to relay her story was Patricia Penn, who served in the U.S. Army during the Korean and Vietnam Wars and later married Richard, a Korean War veteran also present at Saturday’s event.
“My assignment was Army Headquarters Communications Center, Pentagon,” she said, noting her security clearance was beyond the Top Secret level.
Penn explained most of her story has to remain private.
“I was doing cryptography, and we even got messages directly from the front lines,” she said. “I can’t talk about it, because I might know more than what they released to the public.”
Mirroring that recognition of isolated experience, Albert Brase, who served in the U.S. Air Force from 1962 to 1965, said anyone returning from overseas has difficulty relating to people.
“They come back and it’s hard to talk to anybody,” he said.
Cockrell agreed, stating people witness combat and return a different person.
“It’s still that way with some people today,” she said, noting the importance of caring for new veterans.
Cockrell said the VFW gatherings are a way to keep in touch.
“When we lose one, they need to be recognized,” she affirmed. “There’s a lot of them that have not been recognized, and that’s why it’s so heartbreaking when you find out that you lost a WWII veteran, or a Korean veteran.”
VFW Women’s Auxiliary President Barbara White said the post has an honor guard that, at a family member’s request, can be present at ceremonies.
“They work tremendously to help out,” she said of the VFW Post 1317 volunteer Honor Guard.
Cockrell hopes any veteran, or loved one of a veteran, will feel comfortable to call and talk or learn more about veteran services or gatherings.
“Just call and say, ‘Is Momma down there?’ That’s the way they talk. They call me Mom, Ma, whatever,” she said of the welcoming environment. “We just want all these people to know that they’re loved and wanted.”
Her dream is the event will double in size next year. Still, with this year’s encouraging count, veterans and supporting attendees enthusiastically interacted with each other. Penn provided context for the uplifting atmosphere.
“I nearly always make some use of fun,” she said. “What’s the point of crying, if you can keep from it? Enjoy what you can.”
For veteran-related information, contact Cockrell at 405-275-9563 or the VFW at 405-273-7098.