A Valley runs through it

Sidebar by Marcia Darnell

Veterans – November 2004 – Colorado Central Magazine

A Valley runs through it

The Korean War ended in 1953, but its famous border is marked half a world away, in the San Luis Valley of Colorado.

The 38th Parallel is the historic designation between North Korea and South Korea, and has been since the end of the war, or conflict, as it was commonly called. Signs along U.S. 285 and Colorado 17 mark that famous latitude and salute the Americans who fought for it.

State Sen. Lewis Entz
State Sen. Lewis Entz

State Sen. Lewis Entz was the driving force behind the markers, and the sentiment behind them. He served during the Korean War, but didn’t serve in Korea.

“I served from 1951 to ’53 in Oahu,” he says. “We made a Marine Corps air station out of a World War II seaplane base. We trained pilots and personnel for Korea.” He was later stationed in El Toro and El Centro, Calif.

Entz wanted to recognize the veterans of what’s called “The Forgotten War.”

“No one ever recognized us when we came home,” he says. “What we did was fade into the woodwork and people didn’t even realize what was going on in that part of the world.”

The idea was born during preparations for the 50-year commemorative program at Homelake, marking the end of the war. Entz learned the 38th Parallel crossed his home, the San Luis Valley. Publicly marking it seemed natural.

“The main thing was to recognize the Korean War veterans because they were really never recognized for what they did,” he says.

38th parallel sign in San Luis Valley
38th parallel sign in San Luis Valley

Sections of 285 and 17 are also designated as Korean War Veteran Memorial Highway. Later he added a part of U.S. 160 between Monte Vista and Alamosa, plus Sherman Avenue, which leads to Homelake, the state veterans home.

“We’ve got a loop,” Entz says, ” You go from the intersection of 285 and 17, to Alamosa, back to Monte Vista, up to Saguache, and back to the intersection, and Sherman Avenue going up to Homelake.”

Entz would like to extend the drive to the New Mexico border. His enthusiasm for military service hasn’t dimmed in five decades.

“I was going to get drafted into the Army and I didn’t want to go in the Army so I joined the Marine Corps,” he says. “I could still do what I was doing then.

“I’d join up today if they’d let me. And if my wife would let me.”