PANMUNJOM, South Korea -Veterans from 21 nations who defended South Korea returned to that country to commemorate the sacrifices of their fallen comrades.
Friday marked the 60th anniversary of the start of the Korean War.
It was an emotional visit for many of the war veterans, who returned to Korea for the first time after 60 years. Richard Nagle was only 19 when he was sent to Korea. He's still haunted by vivid images of war.
"I remember there were no trees, because all the wood was cut down for firewood. The people were very poor. The children were starving. It was not a pretty place," Nagle described. "It was an ugly place."
The veterans toured the demilitarized zone, or DMZ. The demilitarized zone is a four-kilometer buffer zone between Korea's two opposing armies. It remains a potential flash point for renewed armed confrontation. The veterans visited the zone at a time when North Korea is again threatening war against the South. The North's government has responded with aggressive tones over allegations that it torpedoed and sank a South Korean warship in March.
Tension remains high in the DMZ especially after the North nullified all agreements with the South that were designed to prevent any escalation of hostilities between the two countries.
Arthur Ardinolfi guarded a negotiator at the international peace talks that ended the conflict with an armistice between the two Koreas in 1953. Like most veterans, he hopes young Koreans will learn from those who fought for freedom.
"They had nothing. It was their father and grandfathers who saved the country and made this country beautiful," Ardinolfi said. "That's the one good thing of what I did. It was worth it."
Ardinolfi, now in his 80s, does not think recent tensions will lead to another Korean War.
"I think that's another spurt of North Korea to wave their sword," he added. "I don't think they would do anything. I don't think China will allow them to do anything, because we are such a good trading partner with China. Because if there's going to be another war with the military equipment that we have, it's going to be devastating. No one will win."
The Korean War veterans returned to a very different country to honor and remember their fallen comrades. Sixty years later, they experienced life in a free and developed nation, but one where a final lasting peace is still elusive.