Seventy-three years after the start of the Korean War, on June 25, 1950, a North Fort Myers veteran was eager to share his story about a conflict he feels doesn’t get much recognition.
WINK News spoke to 93-year-old Donald Wiseman, whose walls are lined with memories from a lifetime of serving his country and community.
But Wiseman said he isn’t thinking about himself when he says Korean War veterans deserve more recognition.
“I think more about the people that actually was over there getting shot at while I’m sitting there in a nice clean radio room sending messages, and they’re over there crawling around in the mud,” Wiseman said.
Wiseman joined the Navy when he was just 18 years old. He was a Morse code operator before, during and after the Korean War.
He made scrapbooks full of pictures from his time in the service and of the family he started when he came back from the war. Wiseman still remembers his fellow veterans and thinks about them every day.
“I see them at the store, ones when they look like they’ve lost their last friend—they just looked like they don’t have anything to live for,” Wiseman said, “and I thought, ‘I gotta do something to show them that they’re still remembered, that they did something for this country.'”
In between World War II and the Vietnam War, the Korean War—which, like Vietnam, was an undeclared war described as a “police action”— is often overlooked and called “the Forgotten War,” yet around 5.7 million American service members were in the Korean War, according to the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs.
Since the war was fought in the early 1950s, many of its veterans are in their late 80s or 90s, so Wiseman acted quickly to use his voice to speak for others.
“The Korean War’s kind of lost in the background there,” Wiseman said. “Nobody ever said anything about it, and I wanted to do something before I passed away and before they passed away, because I can say we’re disappearing.”
Wiseman is old-fashioned: no smartphone, no computer, no way to spread the word, but he did have a landline he used to reach WINK and pass along a message to his fellow Korean War veterans
“Thank you for your service to your country and the war,” Wiseman said. “We have not forgot you. That’s how I felt about it; that’s what I wanted to do when I called WINK, and thank you for making my prayers come true. Almost makes me want to cry. Thank you.”
The Korean War ended on July 27, 1953, when an armistice was signed ending organized combat operations and restoring the original approximate boundaries between North Korea and South Korea.