Tacoma’s largest Korean church wants to show veterans of America’s “forgotten war” that they’re remembered and appreciated 62 years after they hit the ground on the Korean Peninsula.
Tacoma First Baptist Church is celebrating Korean War veterans on June 30 by opening its doors for several hours of entertainment, discussions and a dinner.
Senior pastor David Sung Choi suggested the event based on his experience hosting a similar celebration at his previous church in Nashville, Tenn.
Choi remembered veterans tearfully enjoying the celebration and sharing memories from their time at war. One veteran told Choi he’d go to war again to defend South Korea. The pastor grew up in South Korea and wants to use times like this to thank the 19 nations that fought with his countrymen to turn back the communist invasion of 1950.
“We say this is a ‘forgotten war,’ but I say to you as a Korean man, I do not want to forget,” Choi said.
The celebration is open to the public. More than 200 former service members are expected to attend, with several Korean War veteran associations coming in from Port Angeles and Vancouver.
Choi’s congregation draws about 1,500 people every Sunday. It has embraced the South Sound’s military community, drawing on a population of veterans who joined the church after marrying South Korean women. One of them is retired 1st Sgt. Mike Galvin of Lakewood. He’s a Vietnam veteran who was stationed in South Korea three times over his 24-year Army career.
He sometimes meets Korean War veterans when he visits Joint Base Lewis-McChord, and he wants to show his respect for their service. “If people only knew the sacrifices they made for our country,” Galvin said.
More than 34,000 Americans were killed in the Korean War and another 100,000 were wounded over the three years of fighting across the peninsula. U.S. forces have remained in the country since the armistice of 1953, separating the democratic South from the communist North.
Choi says the sacrifices of South Korea’s allies in the war laid the foundation for his country’s economic rise over the past 60 years.
“If they didn’t come to fight, I wouldn’t be here. Tacoma First Baptist wouldn’t be here,” he said.
IF YOU GO
Tacoma First Baptist Church Korean War veterans celebration
Where: Tacoma First Baptist, 1328 84th St. S.
When: 3 p.m., June 30
What to expect: Veterans are welcome to enjoy cultural activities, dinner and an opportunity to contribute stories to the Korean War Veterans Digital Memorial.