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Vancouver group helped open new D.C. war memorial

Columbian - 8/7/2022

Aug. 7—The names of those who died in "The Forgotten War" cannot be overlooked.

In Washington, D.C., 100 panels display the names of more than 36,000 Americans who died during the Korean War, as well as the 7,100 Korean service members who assisted the U.S. military. The black granite wall sits adjacent to 19 stainless-steel soldiers trudging through brush as a part of the Field of Service memorial.

The new addition was years in the making, and its success has deep ties to a local veteran group.

Vancouver's Korean War Veterans Chapter 391 was the top fundraising unit from the veteran network. Its members collected nearly $200,000 from local unions, businesses and residents. The funds went toward construction of the Wall of Remembrance, which cost $22 million — all of which was gathered through donations.

"I'm so proud of what took place and the recognition, but I would like to make sure that we give recognition locally to the people that donated their money," said Ed Barnes, former commander of Chapter 391. "People in this community stood by their citizens. ... The Korean War is no longer forgotten."

In addition to being a top fundraiser for the memorial, the group also played an integral role in its construction.

Then-commander Barnes, a U.S. Army vet, spearheaded an effort to pass the Korean War Veteran Memorial Wall of Remembrance Act, which authorized the creation of a commemorative wall for those who died in the war. There was a concerted effort to drive the legislation through Congress for more than a year, yet it was squashed in the U.S. Senate multiple times.

"Every time they tried to do something with it, somebody wanted to stick some fork on it," Barnes said.

Later, he composed a letter — signed by nearly 70 Korean War veterans — addressed to U.S. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell asking for their federal support to push the bill through the body.

And it did the trick.

The act was signed into law in 2016. The Vancouver chapter received a bronze medallion and proclamations signed by former President Barack Obama in recognition of its efforts.

Robert Sumril, Chapter 391 commander, said the federal achievement is a pivotal step toward telling the story of the Korean War. He attributed its origins to the Korean War mural on Vancouver's own Remembrance Wall just south of City Hall. Thirty-nine Clark County service members died during the war.

Construction for the Wall of Remembrance began in March 2021, and a rededication event took place on July 27, the 69th anniversary of the Korean War Armistice Day. Barnes was able to attend the ceremony, where he sat in the front row before the memorial and joined others in recognizing past sacrifices.

"This is one of the most positive things that has ever happened coming out of Washington, D.C.," Barnes said.


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