Remembering the Forgotten War: The 2IDA Memorials Foundation Announces Modification of 2nd Infantry Division Memorial

Remembering the Forgotten War: The 2IDA Memorials Foundation Announces Modification of 2nd Infantry Division Memorial
2nd Division Memorial, Washington, D.C. (Provided by the 2nd Division Memorial Foundation)
Lee Yun-Jeong

WASHINGTON, D.C.—In commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Korean War Armistice, the 2IDA Memorials Foundation will host an event at its 2nd Infantry Division Memorial in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 26, highlighting the often-overlooked history of the DMZ War. The occasion will also serve to announce an extension of the memorial to honor both American and Korean soldiers who laid down their lives during this conflict.

The proposed modification has received Congressional approval, being the successful outcome of tireless efforts by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), and former Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska). The changes will reflect the significant role of the 2nd Infantry Division (2ID) in the DMZ War during the late 1960s, an event largely overshadowed by the Vietnam War, and its subsequent impact on the U.S.-South Korea alliance.

The DMZ War, launched by communist North Korea in an attempt to destabilize South Korea and drive American forces who remained on the Korean Peninsula following the Korean War in the 1950s, saw numerous U.S. Army battalions deployed along a stretch of the Demilitarized Zone. Despite its significance in shaping the geopolitics of the region, the history of this war remains less widely recognized, and the upcoming event aims to rectify this.

The broader purpose of the 2ID Memorials Foundation is to educate both Americans and Koreans about the shared history and enduring relationship between the two countries. “Americans are almost entirely unaware of the DMZ War and the special relationship that was forged during that era, which marked South Korea as one of America’s most important allies,” explained Aves Thompson, a 2nd Division veteran and Chairman of the 2ID Memorials Foundation.

The 2ID Memorial, located in President’s Park, was first dedicated in 1936 to the fallen of World War I and rededicated in 1962 with additions for World War II and the Korean War (1950–53). However, the veterans and the members of the 2IDA felt the memorial needed to be updated to honor the fallen soldiers of the DMZ War (1966–69), the Korean Augmentation to the U.S. Army (KATUSAs), and those who sacrificed their lives during the War on Terror (2001–03). The Foundation’s efforts resulted in Congressional permission to expand the memorial.

Thompson, a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Conference on Weights and Measures, has served as the Chairman of the 2ID Memorials Foundation since 2016. He believes the 70th anniversary of the Armistice Agreement that halted the Korean War offers an exceptional opportunity to educate Americans and Koreans about the history of the Alliance.

The works on the memorial represent the “importance of the shared history between the U.S. and South Korea—and the need for the young people of both countries to understand this history,” Thompson emphasized, reiterating the sentiments expressed by President Yoon Suk Yeol and President Joe Biden during Yoon’s recent state visit to the United States.

President Yoon’s message of respecting those who gave their lives for their country aligns perfectly with the goals of the 2ID Memorial Project, according to Thompson. The Foundation plans to extend educational initiatives about the history of the U.S.-South Korea Alliance and its strategic importance today and in the future.

The Oct. 26 event will also serve as a platform to continue fundraising for the cost of re-engineering and reconstructing the 2ID Memorial in Washington, D.C. Despite the financial challenges, the project aims to educate, remember, and celebrate the unbreakable bond between the United States and South Korea, forged in the crucible of war.

The DMZ War

The DMZ War, also known as the Second Korean War, was a series of low-level armed clashes between North Korean forces and the forces of South Korea and the United States, primarily taking place between 1966 and 1969 at the Korean DMZ. This conflict emerged in the wake of a shift in the balance of power in North-East Asia following China’s Cultural Revolution and the United States’ increasing involvement in the Vietnam War.

The North’s military campaign aimed to destabilize the South and its U.S. ally, launching a series of incursions and incitements that escalated into a full-scale conflict. Although lesser known, the DMZ War’s significance lies in its major impact on the region’s geopolitics. It reinforced the vital role of the U.S.’s presence and its commitment to South Korea’s defense against Northern aggression.

The 2nd Infantry Division, integral to South Korea’s defense, stood resilient against North Korea’s provocations, thus facilitating the so-called “Miracle on the Han River,” South Korea’s rapid economic development and democratization. However, this period of conflict and the heroes who fought in it has largely remained in the shadows of public historical consciousness, which the 2IDA Memorials Foundation seeks to change.

President of 2IDA: Aves Thompson

Aves Thompson has dedicated his life to public service, notably in the sectors of transportation, military affairs, and education. His versatile career, spanning over five decades, includes significant contributions in regulating commercial vehicles, advocating for truck safety, and commemorating the valor of the 2nd Infantry Division (2ID) in the Republic of Korea.
Aves Thompson, a 2nd Division veteran and Chairman of the 2nd Infantry Memorials Foundation (Courtesy of Aves)
Aves Thompson, a 2nd Division veteran and Chairman of the 2nd Infantry Memorials Foundation (Courtesy of Aves)

Born and raised in Alaska, Aves began his career with the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, working his way up to division director of the commercial vehicle enforcement program. He devoted 24 years to overseeing the regulations governing commercial vehicles in the state. His leadership was characterized by integrity, tenacity, and a deep commitment to safety. In this role, he also served as Chairman of the National Conference on Weights and Measures (NCWM), an organization of over 3,500 members dedicated to maintaining uniformity in national weights and measures laws. For his exceptional service and dedication, the NCWM recognized Aves with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018.

Following his retirement in 2006, Aves wasn’t one to simply rest on his laurels. Instead, he took on the role of Executive Director of the Alaska Trucking Association. For 13 years, he advocated for truck safety issues, reflecting his unwavering commitment to public welfare.

Today, Aves continues to serve in multiple advisory roles, contributing his expertise in transportation and logistics to various organizations. His responsibilities include serving on the Anchorage Port Commission, the Statewide Freight Advisory Committee, and the State Long Range Transportation Committee. He also advises the Engineering, Logistics, and Diesel Technology Schools at the University of Alaska Anchorage.

Beyond his achievements in transportation and logistics, Aves has been instrumental in honoring the service and sacrifices of the 2nd Infantry Division veterans. He, himself, is a veteran of the 2nd Infantry Division, having served in the Republic of Korea from 1965 to 1966. As a member of the Communications Platoon of the 3rd Battalion of the 23rd Infantry Regiment, his responsibility was to ensure reliable radio communications for the battalion, a role he carried out with diligence and dedication.

Aves Thompson receiving an award from the Deputy Commander of Combined Forces Command (CFC) of U.S. Forces Korea in 2015. (Courtesy of Aves)
Aves Thompson receiving an award from the Deputy Commander of Combined Forces Command (CFC) of U.S. Forces Korea in 2015. (Courtesy of Aves)

Continuing his connection to his military service, Aves served as president of the 2nd Indianhead Division Association (2IDA), leading the organization in its mission to serve the needs of the 2ID veterans. Under his leadership, in 2015, he led a contingent of 2ID veterans on two successful return visits to Korea.

Most notably, Aves has been instrumental in gaining Congressional and Presidential approval to modify the 2ID Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. This initiative, undertaken during his tenure as Chairman of the 2ID Memorials Foundation since 2016, aims to honor the fallen warriors of the DMZ War and the War on Terror.

As we approach the 70th anniversary of the U.S.-South Korea alliance, Aves continues to work tirelessly toward the expansion and preservation of the 2ID Memorial, ensuring that the sacrifices of these brave servicemen and servicewomen are not forgotten. His dedication to this cause truly embodies his commitment to service, respect for military history, and his deep-seated belief in the importance of the U.S.-South Korea alliance.

If you are interested in participating or donating, visit the 2ID Memorials Foundation website for more details.