Donald Holloway simply could not believe all the growth he saw in South Korea.
“The country itself, it’s amazing. I just couldn’t believe I was in Korea. Oh man, have they gone a long ways,” said Holloway.
Sixty years ago, in South Korea as a military engineer tasked with clearing minefields towards the end of the Korean War, Holloway saw a landscape filled with rice paddies, shanties, and the scars of war.
On a return visit last week, he saw not only the country’s remarkable growth into modernity, but also the South Korean people’s individual growth.
“It was beaten up pretty bad and the people were downtrodden,” he recalled of his 1953 experience. “And you ought to see the people now. My God . . . these people, I swear that they have gained five or six inches.”
That growth among the citizenry, due to a vastly improved diet, may have left the diminutive Holloway feeling a bit dwarfed at 1.6 metres (five-foot-three-and-a-half-inches), but the appreciative reception he and 35 other Canadian veterans of the Korean War received on their weeklong visit to the Asian nation sure made the 80-year-old Red Deerian feel grand.
The veterans took part in commemorative and remembrance ceremonies at former battle sites and cemeteries as part of the trip marking the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War.
The federal government has designated 2013 as the Year of the Korean War Veteran, and Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney led the Canadian delegation to South Korea.
Holloway said the veterans were treated “like royalty” and that the trip spurred memories both good and bad, especially in the Demilitarized Zone separating the North and South.
While the Korean War is often referred to in Canada as the “forgotten war,” Holloway said he thinks the anniversary might be making people more aware.
“I never felt that we were neglected, but, naturally, because it was a war that was fought in a small area, it didn’t get that much press.”
The local Korea Veterans Association branch will hold a ceremony at the Ross Street cenotaph on July 27 to mark the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Korean War Armistice.
During the three years of the Korean War, 26,000 Canadians served and 516 lost their lives.