PILOT POINT, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – Willene Ritchie of Pilot Point says she hopes her uncle’s, Army Cpl. Andrew Tischler, remains are among those inside the 55 boxes returned from North Korea and now being tested by the U.S. military in Hawaii. “I know every family hurts as bad as we did,” she said.
At first, Ritchie says she wasn’t optimistic. “When they said, 55 boxes I’m thinking, oh, 55 boxes of remains, we don’t have a very good chance,” she said.
But she’s not losing hope.
When her uncle disappeared in the Korean War in May 1951, she was just eight or nine years old. “I remember praying every day for him to come home. It’d be an answered prayer for me as well as the rest of the family members,” she said.
Doris Faulk is Ritchie’s aunt and one of Cpl. Tischler’s eight sisters and also prays his remains will be discovered. “It would just be overwhelming I guess to know that they really found something because it was like hopeless for so many years,” Faulk said.
She says that sense of hopelessness lasted for two and a half years, until the Army declared Tischler dead on December 31, 1953.
Tischler’s name has been on a monument in the Pilot Point Town Square since 1954.
But it took nearly 50 years for his family to find out what happened to him.
It had been classified information until the year 2000, when Ritchie and her father went to a briefing in New Mexico.
Ritchie says, “He was the only one in his platoon who didn’t come back that day. Either a sniper or they grabbed him.”
It happened during an intense battle, and when his platoon went back to search for him later, there was no sign of him.
It wasn’t the news they wanted to hear but Ritchie says it was something. “I was happy to find out what I could and that I could share it with my family,” she said.
Faulk says, “We had just wondered all those years and hadn’t heard a thing, and it was just really, it was wonderful.”
Ritchie says her uncle was awarded a Purple Heart, but she still doesn’t know why.
She hopes to find out next week when she receives a briefing about him.
Ritchie is not only thinking of her family but the families of the other 7,700 U.S. servicemen who are still considered missing from the war. “They’re all special and they all had a family who loved them,” she said.