Jack Merrifield had to make the trip to Washington. As a Korean War veteran, the Knoxville, Tenn. resident wanted to be part of the area celebrations marking the war's 50th anniversary. With his grandson Michael Carter, who serves in the Air Force, he waited in anticipation for the program at Fairfax High School to begin.
"I think it's a pretty good show of the two cultures," Merrifield said.
Carter agreed. "I didn't want to pass it up."
Hundreds of Korean War veterans descended into the Washington area this past weekend, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Korean War. The program at Fairfax High School, presented by the Korean American Cultural Foundation, (KACF) of Seoul, South Korea, highlighted the appreciation of many Koreans for the United States' participation in the war.
"We owe our freedom and prosperous life to the Korean War veterans and those fallen during the War," wrote KACF chairman Dr. Young Jack Lee in the program booklet. "We are here today to show a piece of our mind."
Other programs throughout the area reunited veterans with old friends while reminding younger generations of the "Forgotten War," which was fought between 1950 and 1953 and resulted in South Korea and communist North Korea.
"It's nice that they're having it on the 50-year anniversary, but I think a lot of things were forgotten along the way," said Bernie Mead of Gainsville, Va. "The war really hasn't ended, that's the main thing."
Like the other weekend events, the program at Fairfax High School ended a three-year observance of the Korean War by American veteran groups. The Fairfax program, "Salute to the Korean War Veterans," featured student dancers and musicians from various Korean universities. It is a touring program that has also performed at other Virginia cities including Staunton, Norfolk, Williamsburg and Hampton.
Military Order of the Purple Heart member Al Ortiz of Vienna coordinated this Fairfax leg of the tour, in addition to coordinating the program at the other Virginia cities. The tour took nine months of preparation, said Ortiz's wife, Val.
"It's an opportunity for the students of Korea to represent the people of Korea," said fellow order member Cy Kammeier of Springfield. "I think it's a nice gesture on the part of the Korean people."
After the program, the students presented each Korean War veteran present with a medal.
"It's a cultural exchange opportunity," said Kammeier of the event. "And understanding is what the world needs more of."