Rep. Rob Bishop could be a key player in the efforts of the dwindling ranks of Korean War veterans who are attempting to put a Wall of Remembrance (listing the names of those killed) at the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Their labor of love has been frustrated at several levels — the National Park Service, for instance, has officially opposed the privately funded project — lending more credence to the Korean conflict’s sad designation as "the forgotten war."
At the center of the battle is retired Col. William Weber, an 87-year-old veteran of World War II and the Korean War and a double amputee from wounds in the second conflict.
Weber, who lives in Maryland, contacted me because of frustration in his attempts to get a hearing on a bill authorizing the project before the Bishop-led Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation.
The Utah Republican’s panel held a hearing on a similar bill in August 2011.
Weber said committee members, including Bishop, responded positively and passed the bill with a favorable recommendation. But it died in the full House Natural Resources Committee when the 112th Congress’ term ended in January 2013.
The bill is back from the same sponsor, Rep. Ralph Hall, R-Texas, and again has been assigned to Bishop’s subcommittee, but no hearing has been set.
Weber says a letter was hand-delivered to Bishop’s office under the letterhead of the Korean War Veterans Memorial Foundation, of which Weber is chairman. He said his foundation also has contacted Bishop’s congressional office and the subcommittee’s staff.
He suspects the measure is languishing because of opposition from the Park Service and the National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission. A moratorium was placed on additions to memorials on the mall, but he argues the Wall of Remembrance is a completion of, not an addition to, the memorial.
Bishop told me he has no problem holding another hearing on the issue but said his office can find no record of a request for a hearing in this Congress.
He is backed by Mallory Micetich, deputy press secretary for the House Natural Resources Committee.
"The Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation has been referred nearly 300 pieces of legislation in the 113th Congress," she wrote in an email. "In 2011, the subcommittee held a hearing on this legislation and the bill is still under consideration. The legislation is opposed by the Obama administration; however, the committee may work further on the issue if a request is made by the bill’s sponsor."
Bishop said if Hall requests a hearing, he will make sure he gets one.
For his part, Hall said he has appreciated Bishop’s backing. "We have a good working relationship, and I look forward to continuing the process."
More than 35,000 Americans perished in the Korean War. Weber said U.S. fighters had a 1-in-9 chance of getting killed. In World War II, it was 1 in 12 and in Vietnam 1 in 17.
The Korean War, he said, averaged 1,000 Americans killed per month.
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