On the hill up from Pagoda Circle, south of the upper Muny parking lot, just a hop, skip and jump east of the Jewel Box sits the Korean War Memorial. I wasn’t alive during that conflict, but I was born and grew up in Korea, so its history has always been close to me. Part of that memorial is a monument honoring those involved in what was probably one of the fiercest and most difficult battles ever fought by US forces, complicated by bitter winter weather (with temperatures as low as 30 below zero F) and rough mountain terrain, a battle that was a strategic and remarkably orderly retreat in the face of enemy forces that outnumbered American troops by about 8 to 1. Total US and allied forces casualties were almost 18,000 men, while the attacking Chinese forces lost anywhere from 40,000 to 80,000 soldiers; as much as half their army.
It is a sobering exercise to contemplate such strife and suffering from the vantage point of freedom and the peace and quiet of a place such as Forest Park. Trees in full bloom or blushing with the first budding of Spring, birds singing and flitting from tree to tree, runners and cyclists out enjoying the beauty of the park. And here I sit, reminded of a war fought long ago and far away, but in whose aftermath I was raised, living with many of the widows, orphans, and amputees who survived that bitter conflict.