Bristol’s Korean War Veterans Association featured in Bristol Press

February 9, 2015

1/21/2015 Mike Orazzi | Staff Local veterans at the St. Joseph Church during a mass for veterans on Wednesday morning.

Korean War vets staying active in community
Posted: Sunday, February 8, 2015

Korean War veterans

BRISTOL — Sandwiched between the “Greatest Generation’s” World War II, and the more recent conflicts in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, some veterans view the country’s fight in Korea as the “forgotten war.”

But Bristol’s Korean War Veterans Association is doing its utmost to make sure that war, and its veterans, are anything but forgotten.
Jim Bousquet, who served in Vietnam as an Airman First Class from 1959 to 1963 and worked at The Bristol Press for over 41 years, is commander of the Korean War Veterans Association. He said the group, which meets at 8 a.m. every Wednesday at the Senior Center at 240 Stafford Ave, includes 70 veterans. Eight members are Korean War veterans and the rest served in World War II, Vietnam and Desert Storm.
“When something has to be done for veterans, we are one of the first organizations to step forward,” he said.

Formed in 1994 to raise funds for Bristol’s the Korean War Memorial, the group has recently raised $50,000 for a Revolutionary War monument that will be erected in April. Next month, they will cook an S.O.S. Breakfast that will be served Feb. 15 from 8 to 11 a.m. at American Legion Post 2 at 22 Hooker Court as a fundraiser for the Memorial Military Museum. The group also cooks meals at Zion Lutheran Church and the senior center, raises $12,000 annually to put flags on soldiers’ graves, and aids veterans proven to be in immediate need of assistance through the Lou Hart Memorial Fund.

“Today, veterans are supported almost 100 percent by the community,” said Bob Barnett, a Master Sergeant from 1954 to 1991 and a member of the association since its inception. Barnett’s father fought in The Korean War and his brother died in a prison camp.

Barnett said Korea is often considered a forgotten war because, like Vietnam, it was an unpopular war at the time but there was no great societal shift going on during the war, as with the Counterculture Revolution of the 1960s. Also like Vietnam veterans, Korean War veterans didn’t always receive the respect and recognition they do today.

“It was just after World War II, people were back to their jobs and there was peace on Earth and then suddenly we were in another war,” said Barnett. “Many people who had fought in World War II were called back in. When the soldiers returned home, it was like they came through the back door. There were no parades and no honors. Until we put up the monument, you couldn’t get two Korean War veterans together for anything. Now, 40 years later, Korean War Veterans and Vietnam veterans are finally coming out of the woodwork.”

Dick Avery, an 83-year-old Bristol resident with four children and six grandchildren, has been a member of the Korean War Veterans Association since its inception. He served as a colonel in the Korean War from 1952 to 1953, where he was assigned to the second division’s 37th field artillery battalion and engaged in combat missions along the 38th parallel.

“They moved us around a lot to support different outfits,” he said. “It was scary because whenever you moved you had to look twice at everybody. The North and South Koreans looked so much alike.”

Upon returning home, Avery said he simply “hung up his uniform and went back to work” at Chick Miller Chevrolet, where he worked for 42 years.

“There wasn’t much national fanfare, but I was just thankful that I was fortunate enough to come back in one piece,” he said. “I don’t know how Korea became a forgotten war. 25,000 people lost their lives and hundreds of thousands were wounded. It was a big step in stopping communism from taking over the whole peninsula. South Korea was pushed all the way to the southern tip until the U.S. and the United Nations helped them push back.”

Barnett attributes the improved relationship between veterans and the rest of the community to the rise of social media, which he said has given more exposure to what veterans went through when serving their country.

“Seven years ago, people didn’t want us going anywhere near the schools,” he said. “Today, we can’t seem to get out of them. When we go, the whole school turns out. It is such a pleaser to see that the kids really do care about veterans. I always tell them that if they can read they should thank a teacher. If they can read English they should thank a veteran.”