Three black granite columns stand solemn guard on the crest of Dolly McNutt Plaza. Emblazoned on the center column in bronze lettering are the words NOT FORGOTTEN. It is a memorial for our veterans who served in what is called The Forgotten War. The war in Korea in the early 1950s got the nickname due to lack of public attention both during and after the war. Van Newberry, whose father served in the Korean War, saw that was still true even in Paducah. That’s when he approached Leon Dodge and Hardy Gentry of the American Legion Chief Paduke Post 31.
“We have memorials in town for World War I, World War II, Vietnam, and the Spanish American War, but nothing had been done for our Korea war vets,” says Hardy, a Vietnam veteran. “Van came to us and wanted to see if anything could be done.”
Hardy and Leon had already been successful in raising the funds to build a better WWII Memorial in 2007. “These things just happen,” says Leon, a WWII vet. “I was having lunch one day at G&O with my architect friend Pat Kerr, and Hardy walked in. I asked him when we were going to get a better WWII Memorial, and he told me if I headed it up, we’d do it. I turned to Pat and asked if he’d draw up some plans.”
“Yeah,” laughs Hardy, “it was all done in just five minutes over a cheeseburger!”
Hardy and Leon went to work and put together a committee of Korean War veterans. They then took to the task of raising funds. “We got a great start from the city and the county,” says Leon, “and then Paducah Bank came on board.”
“Yes,” adds Hardy, “they’ve been very good to us. The bank and Wally were very instrumental in this. When we met with him, we didn’t get any, ‘Well, I’ll think about it’ or, ‘I’ll get back to you on this.’ At the very first meeting he asked, ‘What can we do to help make this happen?’ And it’s not just about donating funds. They set things up for us, gave advice and guidance, and were always there to help. They were phenomenal.”
With the fundraising in place, the pair contacted Lower Town artist Linda Ogden to design the Korean War Monument. “I always liked what she was doing with the memorial,” says Hardy. “It looked great on paper, but until I saw it in person, I had no idea it would look that good. I’ve seen memorials all over the country, and this one really stands out. It is just fantastic.”
On the afternoon of May 28, our local Korean War veterans officially dedicated the memorial. “They were just overwhelmed,” says Hardy. “There were about 300 people affiliated with the Korean War there, and about 70% or so were veterans. It was an amazing afternoon.
“These memorials are important not only to them, but to all of us. We need to know about our history and what’s been done. Freedom isn’t free, and that must be remembered. This is our history. One side of the memorial even has a timeline on it. I was down at the plaza recently and saw a mom and her kids walking around and looking at the monument. This is for them to know and study what happened, and learn what these guys went through. We’ll all be long gone while this memorial continues to tell the story.”
“And it’s the community that puts these things together,” adds Leon. “From the city and county to the people at Paducah Bank to all the veterans’ widows who sent in ten and twenty dollar checks. Together, we remember.”
Lower Town artist Linda Ogden designed the Korean War Memorial. “It looked great on paper,” said Hardy Gentry, “but until I saw it in person, I had no idea it would look that good. I’ve seen memorials all over the country, and this one really stands out. It is just fantastic.”