JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – News Channel 11 has shared the stories of those who fought in the Korean War as last week marked the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that effectively ended the conflict.

Fred Rountree, Jr. is a Gold Star Son who learned the sacrifice that comes with freedom at just three years old.

“It’s not just the servicemen, but the wives and the children, they’re the biggest casualties,” Rountree said. “They suffer for years and years and decades as a result of that.”

His father, Fred Rountree, Sr., was a bomber pilot who went Missing in Action.

Information about Fred Rountree, Sr. (PHOTO: WJHL)

“He had completed 40 missions before he was shot up, and then he bailed out of the burning aircraft, and that was Jan. 14, 1951,” he Rountree said of his father.

It’s believed he was shot down over North Korea. Decades later, his remains haven’t been found or identified.

That’s something Rountree, Jr. said is commonplace when it comes to those who are declared as Missing in Action or Prisoners of War.

“They take them to Hawaii, they try to identify the remains, and they did identify some remains, but they found that those boxes, there’s so many bones mixed in there,” he said. “There are very few officers and there are very few Air Force in those [published lists of identified remains]. It’s all always army, private army corporals, but no Air Force, Marines.”

Rountree, Jr. said his father could also have been a Prisoner of War.

“He might have ended up in China or even Russia as a prisoner because they could gain some intelligence about our tactics and our equipment by keeping them,” he said.

While there are unknowns about what happened to Fred Rountree, Sr., his sacrifice had a profound impact on his sons, both of whom went on to serve in the Armed Forces.

“I had a choice. From Okinawa, I went to Fort Hood, Texas. I could have gone to Vietnam or Korea. Those were my choices,” Rountree, Jr. said. “I had history with Korea so I wanted to go to Korea and make sense of the sacrifice my father made.”

Rountree was in the Army Security Agency with overseas tours Okinawa and South Korea.

Now, Rountree, Jr. is involved in several Tri-Cities veterans organizations.

He played a special role in the local ceremony honoring the 70th anniversary of the Signing of the Armistice by ringing the bell for local soldiers who died in the war and presenting the missing man table.

“We’re proud of our effort during the Korean War,” he said. “My wife is Korean. We know it’s a hard thing to think about, that my father had to give his life.”

He and his family went on a re-visit trip to Korea back in 2017.

“I want them to know what democracy, what it cost for democracy, for people to be free because we still have nations out there that are under tyrannical rule that are suffering,” he said. “I’m not saying we need to go to war with every single country, but somehow it can be an influence on the families there.”

The Korean War is known as the Forgotten War, but for those who served there and the family members of those who lost their lives there, it’s anything but forgotten.

You can read more of News Channel 11’s local Korean War veterans’ stories here.

To nominate a local veteran whose voice needs to be heard, click here.