WEST HAVEN >> Officially, the Medal of Gratitude is a awarded to American Korean War veterans from the Republic of Korea for their military assistance during the war.

However, during a recent ceremony for 10 local recipients of the award at American Legion Post 71, U.S. Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro, D-3, expressed multiple times the depths of her own gratitude.

DeLauro said her job offers her many opportunities, but the two “most poignant” are calling to thank local residents who are headed to West Point, and presenting medals to military veterans.

“I see it on a spectrum: those about to serve and those who have served with such valor,” she said.

DeLauro lamented the Korean War’s status as “the forgotten war,” saying that a war-weary nation re-entered into the Korean War just years after the end of World War II and its veterans were not celebrated upon return the way they should have been.

“The Korean War deserves a permanent place in our national consciousness,” DeLauro said. “Without countless acts of heroism, South Korea would not be a free and democratic nation and one of our staunchest allies.”

DeLauro encouraged those receiving medals to speak on their experiences, although veterans often don’t want to do so, she said.

“Share with your grandchildren, because it’s important they know,” she said.

Navy veteran Nathan Barsky, of Stratford, said he believes not many people are aware how the Navy helped war efforts, patrolling coastlines and making beaches safer for other branches of the military to invade.

“The history books won’t reflect that,” Barsky said.

DeLauro countered that was why she felt it was important for veterans to talk about their experiences.

DeLauro said she has never visited Korea, but she has visited Normandy, Afghanistan and Vietnam — where she said she was stunned to witness the Cu Chi tunnels (tunnels Communist guerrilla troops used, according to http://www.history.com).

“It’s just not on the pages of the history books,” she said. “It’s just not enough to say ‘thank you’, we have to really make sure your efforts are remembered.”

The medals were made from recycled wire from the demilitarized zone, DeLauro said.

Veteran Bob Zettergren, of Branford, said he worked as a building contractor for veteran George Noewatne for years, and neither had known the other served in the Korean War until months ago.

“We never spoke about Korea,” Zettergren said.

Both received Purple Hearts for their service, he said.

Other veterans honored and present were Robert Batka of Stratford; former New Haven Police Chief William Farrell of New Haven; and Richard Steele of Stratford.

DeLauro said medals would be delivered to Warren Avery of North Haven; Joseph Caporale of Branford; William Hill of Stratford; James Hussey of Milford; and Armand Solomita of Waterbury.