DALLAS (AP) – Ruth Davis placed her hand over her heart Thursday as her uncle’s remains were taken off a jetliner in a flag-draped casket, marking the soldier’s somber return to Texas more than six decades after he died in the Korean War.
About two dozen other relatives of Army Sgt. 1st Class Benny Rogers watched a Fort Hood honor guard solemnly carry the casket to a hearse for the drive to Athens, where Rogers will be buried Saturday in a family plot.
One relative held a framed black-and-white military photo of Rogers, who went missing in action in 1950 and wasn’t located until decades later.
“It’s joyful because we get to bring him home,” Davis said, while riding in a procession of vehicles for the drive from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport to Athens, about 70 miles southeast of Dallas. “At the same time it’s very, very sad because he was only 20 years old and he didn’t get a chance to live his life.”
Rogers’ family last heard from him in a letter he sent on Oct. 30, 1950, in which he described “sitting in a little hole” and warning his family the fighting was not over yet. A few days later, the soldier was caught in the Battle of Unsan, which claimed the lives of more than 1,000 soldiers.
Military officials in March finally identified Rogers using DNA testing from several sets of human remains discovered more than a decade ago by gold miners in Korea, said Capt. Adrian Vasquez, who accompanied the honor guard on Thursday.
Both of Rogers’ parents have died, but relatives expressed appreciation for the Army’s efforts in bringing Rogers home.
“It means to us that we get to take our uncle’s remains over and put him at the cemetery with his mother and his father and his brother and his sister,” said Davis, who was too young to know Rogers when he was killed. “There is a marker that was placed there for him years ago.”
Vasquez said Rogers was posthumously promoted from corporal.
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