President Barack Obama on Saturday urged Americans to take time from their "hurried lives" to listen to the heroic stories of Korean War veterans who returned to a country weary of war and deserved a better homecoming.
"Unlike the Second World War, Korea did not galvanize our country. These veterans did not return to parades," Obama said in a speech at the Korean War Veterans Memorial on the National Mall, making the 60th anniversary of the war's end.
"Unlike Vietnam, Korea did not tear at our country. These veterans did not return to protests. For many Americans tired of war, there was it seemed a desire to forget, to move on," Obama said.
They "deserve better," the president said, adding that on this anniversary, "perhaps the highest tribute we can offer our veterans of Korea is to do what should have been done the day you came home."
Obama appealed to Americans to pause "in our hurried lives" and let these veterans "carry us back to the days of their youth and let us be awed by their shining deeds. Listen closely and hear their story of a generation."
The 1950-1953 war involved North Korean and Chinese troops against U.S.-led United Nations and South Korean forces. It ended on July 27, 1953 — 60 years ago Saturday — with the signing of an armistice.
But a formal peace treaty was never signed, leaving the Korean Peninsula in a technical state of war and divided at the 38th parallel between its communist north and democratic south.
At least 2.5 million people were killed in the fighting.
"It perhaps taken longer to see clearly and full the true legacy of your service," Obama told veterans in the crowd.
"Here today, we can say with confidence, that war was no tie, Korea was a victory," with 50 million South Koreans living in freedom and "a vibrant democracy" in stark contrast to dire conditions in the North.
"That is a victory and that is your legacy," Obama said.
In a proclamation declaring Saturday as National Korean War Veterans Armistice Day, Obama said the anniversary marks the end of the war and the beginning of a long and prosperous peace.
In the six decades since the end of hostilities, Obama said, South Korea has become a close U.S. ally and one of the world's largest economies.
He said the partnership remains "a bedrock of stability" throughout the Pacific region, and gave credit to the U.S. service members who fought all those years ago and to the men and women currently stationed there.