CONCORD -- After 60 years of waiting, Pastor Oliveros finally got his wish -- an official Concord welcome home after the Korean War.
Complete with a standing ovation and other veterans reaching out to shake his hand, Oliveros who went to Korea in 1950 with the Army's 2nd Infantry Division was honored Saturday at the Korean War 60th Anniversary Commemoration in Concord.
"It felt good, after so long," he said.
David McDonald, the master of ceremonies, said Oliveros was a prisoner of war for nearly three years.
"He suffered in the hell of those prison camps," said McDonald, who also served in the Korean War. "Pastor's only complaint was that he wasn't welcomed home."
Unfortunately, it's a common story for many veterans who served in what's called "the forgotten war," said U.S. Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, who spoke at the event in Hillcrest Park on Saturday.
"We lost 38,000 people and Korea lost 418,000 people," he said. "This was not a police action, this was a war. This was a fight that was valiantly fought. We can never forget."
More than 150 people did not forget when they turned out for the 60th anniversary commemoration put on by the Korean War Veterans Association Mt. Diablo Chapter 264. Complete with the presentation of colors, a musical armed forces medley recognizing the different branches of service and the playing of taps, the commemoration was filled with tributes to veterans and those who did not return home.
Concord Mayor and retired Army Maj. Gen. Dan Helix was the keynote speaker Saturday, and described for the crowd what it was like to fight in the Korean War. A second lieutenant at the time, he recalled having to fight with weapons that were frozen from snow. The troops received one hot meal a day and a shower once a month, he said. But in the end -- he told the crowd, many of whom were veterans -- being alive is something to be grateful for.
"It was an indelible experience," he said. "I am still counting my blessings."
The 1950-53 war involved North Korean and Chinese troops against U.S.-led United Nations and South Korean forces. It ended on July 27, 1953 with the signing of an armistice -- 60 years ago Saturday. Though a formal peace treaty was never signed. Around 2.5 million people were either wounded or killed during the war.
Since then, the Korean Peninsula has been divided between its communist north and democratic south.
Many of the speakers Saturday, including State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, said it's still important for the U.S. to stand at the border with South Koreans due to the threat of North Korea.
The U.S. and Korea have a shared mission of peace, said Sung-wook Hong, the deputy consulate general of the Republic of Korea.
Honoring Korean War veterans took place nationwide Saturday. In Washington, D.C., President Barack Obama urged Americans to take time from their "hurried lives" to listen to the stories of Korean War veterans.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Contact Elisabeth Nardi at 925-952-2617. Follow her at Twitter.com/enardi10.