|The warship HMCS Haida provided a suitable backdrop for Canada's Korean War veterans to recall their service and those who paid the supreme sacrifice (TERRY DAVIDSON/QMI Agency).
TORONTO - Korean War veteran Ken Griffith vividly remembers carrying a severely-wounded Charlie Morningstar away from the front lines of battle.
Both men were Army soldiers in Canada’s fighting forces. They did their basic training together, and both were only 20 when they were sent to Korea. Morningstar, who had been hit in the stomach by machine-gun fire, would be one of three comrades Griffith would lose during the three-year conflict.
Canada entered the war along with several other international forces in 1951, several months after North Korea’s military crossed the 38th Parallel into South Korea.
Griffith was among 40 of Canada’s Korean War vets who were in attendance in Hamilton on Saturday for a ceremony to both thank the more than 26,000 Canadians who served in the conflict, and to honour those who lost their lives during it. Each vet - all now elderly men, including two with canes and one with a walker - placed a white mum at a makeshift memorial beside the HMCS Haida, one of eight Canadian war ships that served in Korean waters.
From the moment Griffith’s boots hit Korean soil, he was in the thick of battle as part of the First Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment.
“It was a major position in the front line,” said Griffith, 79, as he harkened back to one particularly fierce battle 35 miles outside of Seoul. “I did all my tour in the front lines.”
Also in attendance on Saturday was Conservative MP Mike Wallace, as well as Senator Yonah Martin, Canada’s first senator of Korean descent.
“Korea is what it is because of your sacrifice.” Martin said. “I would not be standing here today had Canadians not answered the call to .. fight for people’s freedom.”
The Korean War ended on July 27, 1953 with the signing of the Korea Armistice Agreement at Panmunjom. The names of 516 Canadians who died during the conflict are inscribed in the Korean War Book of Remembrance in Ottawa.