Friday, June 25, 2010

The Korean War...and Ultrarunning

(photo credit National Park Service, here)

60 years ago today the Korean War began with the invasion of the south by the North Koreans. It lasted some 3 years and killed an estimated 4 million human beings, half of them civilians.

Several years ago I was in Washington, DC for a training class in the summer. I stayed at a hotel near the Capital, and after work one evening I needed to get a 15 miler or so in. I ran around Haines Point, across the river to the Mount Vernon Trail, and came back across at the Lincoln Memorial. I wanted to see the relatively new Korean War Veterans Memorial before heading back to the hotel.

Well, this being Washington, DC in the summer, the hazy, hot and humid weather brewed up a thunderstorm. I could see the storm gathering, and other than being concerned about lightning, I was not worried about the rain per se because it was warm, I was covered with sweat anyway, and getting wet was not an issue. I ran up to the Memorial, slowed to a respectful walk, and was immediately struck by the haunting, gaunt, individualized faces of the 19 life-size statues. At this time you could walk among the statues (they are fenced off now). All or nearly all the soldiers were wearing ponchos...and just then the skies opened up in a deluge.

I was the only live person there and I have to say it was one of the most eerie experiences of my life, standing right among all these poncho-clad figures in the pouring rain, just like it must have been in Korea all those years ago.

(photo credit, here


The Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC was dedicated in 1995 to 1.5 million American men and women who served in the Korean War. The expansive memorial includes a group of 19 statues that depict soldiers on patrol facing an American flag. A granite wall has a mural of the faces of 2,400 unnamed soldiers with a reading that states “Freedom is not free.” A Pool of Remembrance honors all soldiers who were killed, wounded or missing in action.

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