SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A soldier will be buried in an Ogden cemetery on April 30, some 60 years after he died at a Korean prisoner of war camp.
Lt. Jack J. Saunders will be buried in Aultorest Memorial Park next to the grave of his wife, LaRelle, after a laboratory at Hickman Field in Hawaii positively identified his remains, the Deseret News of Salt Lake City reported.
Saunders, who was born in Clearfield in 1924, served in World War II and was called back into action during the Korean War. According to the Army, he became missing in action in February 1951 while his unit was breaking a roadblock near Hoensong in what is now South Korea. The Army thinks he died in April 1951 as a result of maltreatment and malnutrition.
Between 1991 and 1994, North Korea finally turned over 208 boxes believed to contain remains of U.S. soldiers. Out of those boxes, the remains of 35 servicemen have been positively identified so far, including those of Saunders.
Saunders’ sister, Helen Palmer, now in her 90s, said the news was a relief.
“All we ever had was ’missing in action,’ ” she told the Deseret News. ”This has been a long time coming. It’s just an unbelievable thing.
“I can imagine that he was not buried in a nice place there. How they found any bones at all is amazing. I never thought this miracle would happen. And I feel like it is a miracle. Nothing came out of those earlier attempts, and you sure wonder why it took so long.”
New technologies and advances in forensic science have helped in recent years, but identification can still be a long, drawn-out process. Several chains of evidence are followed, including DNA, dental records, eyewitness accounts and recovered artifacts.
“We rarely get a clear-cut identification right off,” said Larry Greer, spokesman for the Department of Defense’s Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office. ”Families scatter, names change. Tracking down the correct DNA donors sometimes takes a long time.”
Saunders was attached to the B Battery, 15th Field Artillery Battalion and assigned as a spotter, which involved flying a small plane over enemy-occupied territory.
Plans call for military ceremonies for him at both Hickman Field and the Ogden cemetery.
“(Saunders) gave his life for his country like any other soldier,” Greer said. ”He is entitled to a full military burial in the cemetery of choice. The Army provides the casket and local military units provide the support.”
Saunders’ daughter, Kim Padelsky, was only 3 when her father left for the war and has no real memories of him.
“I’m glad we can finally lay him to rest here,” she said. ”It’s been all this time, and we’ve all moved on. But it’s still been in the back of my mind that he was out there somewhere, that there was no place where we could go to visit. I was really stunned when they first called. … It finally makes him seem like a real person.”
Information from: Deseret News, http://www.deseretnews.com