Charles Hughes, a Korean War veteran, said combat is something he can't explain to someone unless they've been through it.
"Have you ever been scared for eight months in a row?" he asked, adding that combat is filled with fear and anxiety. Hughes, 80, said it's important to recognize veterans because "90 percent of people in the United States could care less. It's only the veterans who know what went on."
On Saturday, Hughes and other Korean War veterans will be recognized for their service during a ceremony at 11:30 a.m. at Veterans Park.
Saturday is the 60th anniversary of the armistice ending combat in the Korean War.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Lisa Aug, public information officer for the Kentucky Department of Veteran Affairs, said the ceremony will feature a live band and a color guard, and the group is trying to get a Lexington high school student in ROTC to read off a list of people from Fayette County who died in the war. Mayor Jim Gray will make remarks, and Maj. Walter J. Leaumont of the Kentucky National Guard will be the keynote speaker.
Aug said it's important to honor the veterans now and "recognize them before they're gone."
Although Korean War fighting stopped in 1953, Chester Care, commander of the Central Kentucky Chapter of Korean War Veterans, said troops who stayed in Korea until 1955 are considered Korean War veterans.
He also said there are American troops in Korea even now and the war never technically ended. Instead, there has been a cease-fire for 60 years.
Care, 82, also is a veteran. He was in Korea in 1954 and 1955.
When he was in Korea, his job was to intercept enemy communications, so he was behind the lines.
"It wasn't the same as the fellows with machine guns on the front lines," Care said.
He said South Koreans, both in Lexington and worldwide, generally appreciate what the soldiers did for them.
"They do not forget — they remember, and we appreciate that too," he said.
Like Hughes, Care said the Korean War is often overlooked. It's considered "the forgotten war," but he said he feels a kinship with other veterans of the war.
After Hughes spent eight months fighting in Korea in 1950 and 1951, he was hospitalized for 31 months for gunshot wounds to his chest and an arm.
He said that in his infantry's first encounter with the enemy, they lost about 413 men.
Hughes said he joined the military because he had a lack of options.
"After I graduated from high school, my family was not a rich family, and you didn't have much choice — you either went into the military or to the coal mines," he said. "I chose the military."
Care said he doesn't think it's important to recognize himself specifically at the ceremony, but it is important to recognize other veterans, "because they did what needed to be done."