MADISON, Wis. — Even a sleigh, good weather and nine reindeer would test the challenge two state agencies face in trying to deliver thousands of last-minute gifts to Wisconsin’s Korean War veterans.
The departments of Veterans Affairs and Military Affairs recently teamed up to devise a strategy to deliver 162-page commemorative hard-cover “coffee-table” books to the state’s Korea vets as gifts of the South Korean government and South Korean businesses. Just before Thanksgiving, the two agencies received 4,000 copies of the book, “Korea Reborn: A Grateful Nation Honors War Veterans for 60 Years of Growth.”
The challenge, said Military Affairs spokeswoman Lori Getter, is to get the books to the vets. As of 2012, there were 40,189 Korean War-era veterans living in Wisconsin.
There are no holiday delivery guarantees, however: “We just want to make sure it gets into the hands of a vet or family member,” Getter said. “It will take time, and we will try to get them out as quickly as we can.”
Though the distribution plan is yet to be finalized, the agencies, in a statement, said they hope to have the books shipped to local VA offices soon for individuals to pick up. They also will be available to request online or by phone in the next couple of weeks. The Department of Veterans Affairs said it hopes to distribute the books to all the veterans service organizations in the state and Wisconsin Korean War Veteran Association members. Korea vets will be able to pick up a free book at the Wisconsin Veterans Museum on the Capitol Square as well.
The book, filled with historic photographs and descriptions of various stages of the war and development after the war, “is quite touching, well done,” Getter told the Wisconsin State Journal.
Other states received allotments of the books for veterans earlier this fall, and most have set up systems where vets can pick up copies at various agencies, usually one book per Korean War veteran or the family.
The Wisconsin agencies are looking at something similar but with added avenues to expedite delivery and make contact easier, such as by telephone and email.
The book commemorates the “Year of the Korean War Veteran” in the United States, noting this is the 60th anniversary of the armistice. Getter described it as “a chance for the South Korean government to thank the veterans, a tribute to those who fought in the war.”
Though there are many battlefield photographs, it should surprise no one that the richly illustrated
book – which can be viewed online – contains no images of homecoming parades for the veterans. The only “welcome home” photo is of families of prisoners of war cheering their return in August 1953.
Long referred to as “the forgotten war” by historians and veterans, the Korean War was more in the public’s focus this past year because of the anniversary and also because veterans from that era are dying, said Kevin Hampton, curator at the Wisconsin Veterans Museum.
More than 132,000 Wisconsin men and women served in the Korean War.
“There is genuinely more interest now, especially with the ‘Greatest Generation’ passing on. This is the next group,” he said. “A good amount of people are interested in and want to commemorate what many feel are the ‘forgotten,’ especially those who might not be around a lot longer for us to thank.”
The book was published by Remember My Service Productions of Salt Lake City and paid for by “an alliance of South Korean public and private sectors,” according to a publisher’s note.