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AFTER FOUR decades, the American people finally are recognizing the sacrifices of U.S. fighting men in Korea.

"I guess it takes time for people to realize the historical significance of a war," said Erie County Sheriff Thomas Higgins. "What happened in Korea happened again, a decade later, in Vietnam.

"We saw how the American people ignored the Vietnam veteran. They have finally started to give them some recognition. Now the Korean veterans are saying, 'What about us?' "

Higgins, who served with the Marines in Korea, is chairman of the Korean War Memorial Committee, which has spearheaded the effort to construct a monument in Servicemen's Park.

Honorary chairmen of the committee are Erie County Executive Gorski and Mayor Griffin, who also is a Korean War veteran.

The mayor served with the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division. "I remember when I was over there (February 1953) it was always cold and rainy," Griffin said. "It was really depressing. When I first went to Seoul, there were bomb craters everywhere and little kids living in cardboard boxes. It was terrible."

What was it like when the American fighting men returned home? "The mood was a lot different than Vietnam, there weren't any war protesters or anything like that," Griffin said. "People respected you for what you did over there."

Higgins agreed. "We didn't get insulted and people didn't spit at us or anything like that," he said. "But there were no parades or anything, either. We just came home, took off our uniform, and went back into everyday life without any fanfare."

It was far different for the men returning from Vietnam. Edward S. Simmons, a Vietnam vet who has played a key role in Korean Memorial Committee, understands the feelings of the Korean vets.

"Their time has come," Simmons, director of the Veterans Helping Veterans Center, said. "This monument won't replace the men from Western New York who died in Korea, but at least it will acknowledge their sacrifice."

Both Higgins and Griffin are pleased with the Buffalo's Korean War Memorial, which will be dedicated sometime this summer. "It means something special to everyone of us who fought over there," Higgins said.

"It's in a beautiful setting and I hope the people who see this memorial never forget what those guys gave for their country," Griffin said.

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