About 50 residents gathered Thursday at the Korean War Memorial at Melvin Price Park for a ceremony commemorating today's 60th anniversary of the start of the Korean War.
On June 25, 1950, President Harry S. Truman and the United Nations decided to help South Korea stop the invading North Koreans.
"Four days later, we were on a train to California," said Leroy Goetz, the main speaker at the ceremony. Goetz is a decorated Korean War veteran, who was just a teenager in Georgia when his battalion went overseas.
Under the shade of the trees in a few rows of lawn chairs, all listened to Goetz's story of war from a different age.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to Belleville News-Democrat
"In August, it was hot, hot, hot as it ever could get. In September, it was rain, heavy rain. In October, there'd be 6 inches of snow. The winter would be 35-45 below," said Goetz. He had a little frostbite on his toes, but he considered himself lucky.
"So many guys, not so lucky," he said.
The North Koreans would come at them, blasting horns that you could hear five, sometimes 30 minutes before they approached. The Chinese, who were allies of North Korea, snuck up behind you, Goetz said.
"After dark, we didn't know who we were fighting," in the valleys and hills of the mountains, Goetz said.
The ceremony began with the Pledge of Allegiance and a prayer led by the Rev. Bill R. Cummins.
"Hard to believe, but all these guys here were just teenagers," said Thomas McCaw, commander of the Imjin Chapter 95. McCaw went to Korea twice, once in the 3rd Infantry Division and again with the 25th Infantry Division. He was only 17 when he first went.
"Doesn't seem so long ago," McCaw said.
There are about 45 members of the local Imjin Chapter. Their functions through the year such as the Sweetheart's Party for Valentine's Day raise money for the veteran's home in Anna.
Another guest speaker, retired Chief Master Sgt. Charles Lee, spent 30 years in the Air Force. He did not serve in Korea, but commended those who did. He spent a lot of time in the Pacific, Japan and the Philippines, as well as 10 years at Scott Air Force Base. Lee said he's probably the youngest member of the chapter.
The ceremony continued with ringing of bells for each of America's allies in the war. Bells rang for Australia, Turkey, India, Thailand, Philippines, Great Britain, New Zealand, Colombia, the Netherlands, Belgium, South Korea, Ethiopia, Greece and South Africa.
A flower was pinned on a wreath for each deceased member of the chapter. Following the playing of taps, McCaw read a poem highlighting the reasons why we remember the Korean War, its veterans and all who've served.
" It's the veteran who gives the right to a fair trial, not the lawyer; it's the veteran who gives the freedom of speech, not the reporter," read McCaw.
The war is sometimes referred to as "The Forgotten War." But the memorial at Melvin Price Park is a reminder of the 54,268 Americans who lost their lives, the 103,284 wounded, 8,177 missing and 7,140 POWs during the war.