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Coastal Bend veterans remember Korea: 'The Forgotten War'

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Posted at 6:07 PM, Jun 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-21 19:50:06-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — June 25 may seem like a random date to most folks.

It’s someone’s birthday or a wedding anniversary.

But to the families of 36,914 who died in the Korean War that started on that date seventy-two years ago, it means everything.

For years, Korea has been described as the “Forgotten War”. It’s sandwiched in history between a popular World War II and a publicly unpopular Vietnam War.

But to the surviving veterans of Korea who served alongside those men who didn’t come home alive, Korea will never be forgotten. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It’s a bloody memory of a war they would have preferred never happened in the first place.

Years after the US entered the war in 1950 after North Korea’s invasion into South Korea, frustration still remains evident in the faces of Korean War veterans today.

“We were trying to stop the spread of Communism,” recalled Dotson Lewis of Flour Bluff who served with the 1st Cavalry Division and landed in Korea just a few days after the way started. “We really didn’t know what we were getting into. We had no information as to what was going on or anything else. “

Lewis’ unit had moved in to replace a battalion with the 24th Infantry Division which was I’ll-prepared and overwhelmed by North Korea and Chinese forces.

The loses were heavy. 10,000 casualties. One of those was Army Private Pablo Aaron Castillo, who was buried in Corpus Christi.

Seoul, the capital of South Korea, was captured by the North. Lewis’ unit fought to take it back.

But before that, Lewis remembered having to take care of troops like Castillo, even if it meant sending them in harm’s way. Early on, he sent some of his troops on a recon patrol to locate the enemy.

“And they didn’t come back,” said Lewis. “We found them three days later. Heads down with their hands tied behind their back.”

They were brutally killed.

Harry Alfeo was sent to fight with the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines in the middle of the Korean War.

“I fought for the guy right next to me. You can’t believe how close you get to guys so quickly,” said Alfeo.

Ramiro Esquivel, who served as a squad leader with the 2nd Army Division, has the physical and mental scars to remind him daily of the Korean War.

He was struck three separate times by enemy fire. The final blow was to his head. He awarded the Purple Heart. It’s a sacrifice that eventually confined him to a wheelchair.

“That really hurt me. I went out there and put my life … for what. For this?,” said Esquivel.

For Lewis, Alfeo and Esquivel, instead of forgetting the “forgotten war”, they would prefer Americans pause and reflect on the human toll that comes from wars like Korea.

“We should have learned some lessons there,” said Lew

More Veterans In Focus stories are available here, along with resources for local veterans.

Contact Veterans In Focus reporters: Greg Chandler at greg.chandler@kristv.com and Pat Simon at pat.simon@kristv.com