Honoring His Father, Serving His Community

Staff Sgt. Robert Louis Kalkofen, now 90, served during the Korean War era as a logistics manager for the Marine Corps. His son, Bob Kalkofen, today serves as vice chair of the Missouri Korean War Veterans Memorial to honor his father’s service, and that of the thousands of other service men and woman who fought in the war.

“I never served in the military, myself, but I do consider myself to be a patriot,” said the younger Kalkofen. “I got involved in the memorial because I have a special connection to that branch of the service (Marines) and I wanted to support that. The Korean War veterans are important to us.”

Kalkofen, a retired funeral director, has been engaged with the downtown Kansas City memorial for 11 years, 10 of which as a member of the board of directors.

“I think the biggest reason for my involvement are the two plaques on the lawn, on the south side of the memorial, where there are 900 names of Missouri citizens killed in action in Korea. Those people made that sacrifice so that we, and the South Koreans, could remain free. We can’t let them fade into history without being named.”

The motto “Never forget the forgotten war” is a bittersweet reminder that the 34,000 Americans who died in Korea from 1950 to 1953 were not as revered as soldiers from other wars had been.

“World War II had ended, and then five years later the Korean conflict came to be,” Kalkofen said. “There was not the buildup there was for World War II. All the weapons, the machinery, even the uniforms, were left overs. There wasn’t the commitment to Korea that there was for
World War II.”

The sacrifices made were as real as any war, however, and is remembered annually in Kansas City on Flag Day. Speakers at the memorial, the only certified Korean War Veterans memorial in Missouri, typically come from the military. Volunteers participating come from service groups such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Sea Cadets, and Boy Scouts.

“The American Legion band plays every year and they’re wonderful. It’s a very patriotic ceremony,” Kalkofen said.

“People really should come out and see it.”

The Missouri Korean War Veterans Memorial is located in Washington Square Park, 174 East Pershing Rd., in downtown Kansas City, in the area of Union Station, Crown Center and the World War I museum.

Written By: Frank Cook

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