Sixty Years Later: Veteran Reflects on Korean War

11:06 PM, Jul 26, 2013   |    comments
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Winston-Salem, NC - Lieutenant Colonel Franz Cone wanted to be a soldier his entire life. He grew up during World War II, "when all of our heroes were soldiers."

Those heroes came home to parades, appreciation and admiration.  Cone served in Korea, but when he came from war, he didn't receive the same welcome. 

WFMY News 2's Morgan Hightower spoke with Colonel Cone about his service during what's been called "The Forgotten War."

"Nowadays I wear this hat so I can meet people who were in Korea and Vietnam, but every now and then someone will say 'thank you' for your service, and that's new. That never happened in Korea," said Lt. Colonel Franz Cone, Korean and Vietnam War Veteran. 

Colonel Cone was just 21-years-old when he shipped off for Korea.

"I can remember things that happened in Korea better than things that happened last week," said Cone, "Combat changes you. And it burns things into your mind. You really never forget."

He remembers the men in his troop, the soldiers who were killed serving our country, and his friends he watched die.

It was a whole other world and when he came home, he still felt a world away.

"I came back and a lot of people said, 'where've you been?' [I'd say] 'Oh, Korea.' [They'd say] 'Oh, okay, what else have you been doing?' It was not a big thing in the states, it really wasn't," he said.

It's a response he says he and other Korean War veterans learned to live with.

"You realize this was not a big thing in their life. It's the biggest thing in yours."

The Korean Armistice Agreement ended combat sixty years ago. Saturday, President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will honor Korean Veterans in a ceremony in Washington, D.C.

"It's nice that they're being honored now. The Korean War was largely forgotten during the Korean War. Things about combat in Korea, unless it affected something local in the newspaper, it was on page 2 or page 3 or page 4," said Cone. "Unless people had somebody that they knew was involved in Korea, Korea was a long way away."

While in Korea, Cone was wounded and earned a Purple Heart. A 120 millimeter mortar hit him in the back. He spent a month and a half in the hospital before going back into combat, He also served in Vietnam. He retired from the Army after 20 years of service.

"I would still be on active duty if they would let old people be on active duty," said Cone. "I can't say I enjoyed every minute of it, there were some bad things going on. But I liked it, I loved it. Still do." 

Governor Pat McCrory has ordered all flags be lowered to half-staff from sunrise to sunset Saturday.

It's estimated that nearly 150,000 North Carolinians served in Korea. Almost 70,000 of those are still living in the state today.

WFMY News 2

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