Korean War POWs meet in Louisville for the last time - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Korean War POWs meet in Louisville for the last time

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Former prisoners of war, who were taken captive during the Korean war, gathered in Louisville this weekend at the Brown Hotel for their annual reunion.

This will be the last time they will come together in a formal setting.

Former Korean War POW Bill Norwood, from Tennessee, founded the group in 1976.

"It's been a necessary therapy," Norwood said as the reunion began on Friday.

The Korean War Ex-POW Association held its first meeting in Louisville in 1976 with just 12 members.

"We wanted to get together and socialize and talk about things we can't even speak with our families about," explained Norwood.

During the past 39 years this brotherhood of friends who first met under horrible circumstances gathered in 13 different cities, including Louisville several times, to renew and strengthen their bond of shared experiences.

One year the reunion attracted almost 400 Korean War POW's and their families.

This year less than a hundred are in Louisville for what will be their last reunion held by the association.

With the former soldiers who served their country so bravely now into their 80's it has become too difficult to travel.

"Age certainly is a reason," says Norwood, "many of us have a disability of some sort, I know myself I am just tired."

There were 7,000 prisoners of war in Korea. Only half of them survived. Sandwiched between World War II and the Vietnam War, many of the POW's call Korea the forgotten war.

"It's not taught much in the schools, eventually it will just disappear," Norwood believes.

Ray Frazier used to attend the annual convention, but it has been several years since he last did so. But although he's in poor health, he traveled all the way from Arizona to be here one last time.

He wrote a book about the Korean War and his experiences.

"It was a hell of an experience that nobody else should have to go through," says Frazier, "I didn't sleep much last night, I was too excited about the reunion."

Elliott Sortillo from Northwest Indiana was just 16-years-old when he become a POW in Korea.

He says he only survived because of the help he received from others.

"I had some great mentors, some people who took care of me and guided me," says Sortillo.

The former POW's and their families will attend a dance Friday evening in the Crystal Ballroom of the Brown Hotel and hold a banquet Saturday.

They say the end of the formal reunion doesn't mean they can't stay in touch.

"We'll still get together on an informal basis," says Norwood.

Says Elliott Sortillo, "It's bittersweet you know, we're going to get together until there is nobody else to get together."

The POW's say they recently have received more attention, especially from the media, than they have in many years.

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