34 Korean War vets honored at West Haven museum

Major Stephen McSweeney addresses the crowd in front of the Korean War display.

Major Stephen McSweeney addresses the crowd in front of the Korean War display.

The West Haven Veterans Museum commemorated Korean War veterans in a ceremony Sunday. A common message was the need to share untold stories from what is often called the “forgotten war.”

Approximately 34 veterans were honored and given gifts. Carole McElrath, head of fundraising for the group, sent out around 300 invitations through email, newspaper and town lists, in an attempt to reach the community and engage with veterans’ families.

“This is a group that’s only five years behind the second world war. It was tricky trying to find them,” McElrath said. She said the Korean War was chosen because the generation is aging and other war veterans, such as those in World War II, were previously commemorated.

The podium was set in front of the Korean War display, and the room was full of veterans, family members and state and local officials.

Paul Sullivan received recognition, sitting with his wife, Annette, two of his sons and several of his grandchildren. Sullivan served with the 58th Field Artillery Battalion. He said the group shipped from Seattle and traveled to Busan, Japan. From there, he said, the group moved south by train. Upon arrival, someone there half-jokingly asked which side they were joining, due to the confusing nature of the conflict itself.

In addition to the combat, Sullivan had to wait for 13 months once the conflict was over before coming home. The conflict, he said, was also called a policing action by then-President Truman. The conflict’s place between World War II and the Vietnam War silenced many of the stories.

Sullivan’s granddaughter, Melissa Carney, listened intently as her grandfather spoke. She said her grandfather is the kind of person who has a way of spinning a conversation away from himself toward listening to others, and she has not yet heard many of the stories.

Ruth Torres represented West Haven Mayor Nancy Rossi. Also in the house were state Sen. George Logan, state Reps. Charles Ferraro and Michael DiMassa and City Council members Sean Ronan and Mitchell Gallignano.

Col. Daniel Murphy spoke on behalf of Major Gen. Francis Evon. Major Stephen McSweeney also spoke on the Connecticut National Guard’s involvement in such wars.

McSweeney said he did not hear the stories from his grandfather about the Korean War until he was in the hospital, late in life. He said there are treasures, stories and artifacts to be found. Unlike World War I, many artifacts (not to mention the remains of some of the fallen) have yet to be removed from Korea, because there is active military still serving at the Korean Demilitarized Zone.

Surviving veterans and families enjoyed the recognition Sunday.

“I’ve taken good care of him, haven’t I?” said Barbara Kiczyiniski, about husband, Edward. He will be 90 soon, and the two met following the conflict, in which they both served.