Shirley Wishlove was just five years old when her older brother enlisted to fight in the Korean War.
It was June 1950, when Leslie Strachan left Kelowna to join the military effort to keep North Korea from militarily overtaking neighbouring South Korea and unifying Korea under a communist regime.
“I don’t remember a lot about him,” Strachan, 79, said from her home in Kelowna.
She was told that her doting older brother was a caregiver in her earlier years, taking her on to help give their mother a break. Her reminder of those days is a picture of her as a tot, sitting in the basket of his bicycle.
“As a kid, you don’t pay any attention but I have a picture of the day he enlisted, and I remember him coming home right before he was shipped overseas,” she said.
Less than a year later, on May 30, 1951, Strachan was killed at the age of 21 while he was with helping the Red Cross carry bodies off the field. He’s buried in Busan, South Korea.
“It was terrible, I can remember that like it was yesterday… My mother, she just wilted,” Wishlove said.
The Korean War started on 25 June 1950, when North Korean troops invaded South Korea, and carried on until an armistice was signed on July, 27, 1953. More than 26,000 Canadians served on land, at sea, and in the air during this conflict. 516 Canadians died and more than 1,200 were injured.
Despite the significant way it shaped Canada’s military history, it’s been deemed a forgotten war.
“I think it just wasn’t as recognized as the world wars,” she said. “It was a minor conflict compared to those, but I met a lot of South Korean people and they are so grateful that these men came and liberated them. For them, it was very important.”
Her family has always kept her brother’s memory alive. His name has been added to the Kelowna cenotaph and remembered on another in Winnipeg years earlier.
This Remembrance Day, however, Wishlove will do her part to make sure her brother’s memory is kept by others, when she lays a poppy wreath at the cenotaph in his name, and the 36 families from B.C. who also lost a family member during the Korean War.
“I think it will be very emotional,” she said. “I just feel like recognition is finally being given and I am grateful for that. Not just for Leslie but for all of the veterans.”
Making sure that veterans from the Korean conflict get their due is work that Guy Black has dedicated himself to and he’s played a large part in making sure Strachan is getting recognition.
He went to the site where Strachan was killed and said the sacrifices that were made by Canadians are not forgotten in South Korea.
“The people of Korea have so much respect for Canadian soldiers, it’s just unbelievable,” Black said.
“And you can see the difference that it made, that Canada did go to Korea to fight, so there was a clear meaning why they went, and what the results were.”
In Canada, however, the view was obscured by many people knowing nothing about that part of the world.
“Everyone was a volunteer, and many of the soldiers that did leave Canada and went to Korea, didn’t even know where Korea was or anything about it, but they were willing to help,” he said.
It was July 27, 1953 when the Korea Armistice Agreement was signed and three years of fighting ended. Four years later, in 1957, the last Canadian troops left Korea.
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