Korean War Soldier Receives Proper Burial In Mass. Hometown
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
The U.S. Army medic has finally received a proper burial. More than half a century ago, he was declared missing in the Korean War. His remains were recovered as an unknown soldier, and now he's been identified. NPR's Arun Rath watched as his remains came home to Holyoke, Mass.
ARUN RATH, BYLINE: Korea has been called America's forgotten war, but just about everyone in Holyoke seems to remember. People lined the road from the highway to the funeral home waving flags to honor the return of the remains of Corporal Jules Hauterman, Jr. Paul Welihan, Sr. is Hauterman's cousin. But he says they were like brothers. As kids they were separated only by a hallway.
PAUL WELIHAN SR: He and I grew up together, played ball together, we skated together, we did everything together. And when he went into the Army, the day he was leaving for Korea, he took me out in the hall, and he told me where he was going. He sighed. He said, you know, there's always a chance I might not come back. So he said you be a good boy, make me proud of you as I've always been. And he gave me a hug and a kiss, and that was the last time I ever saw him.
RATH: Now Paul was in the same room with his cousin one last time. He says that the uncertainty about Jules took a toll on the family over the decades.
WELIHAN: Killed his mother - it killed his mother. When she got the message that he was missing in action, she went into a world of her own, and she stayed there till she died. He was only 19, her only son - took her and she wanted to be with him, and that's where she went.
UNIDENTIFIED CHOIR: (Singing) God bless America.
RATH: Hauterman's funeral mass was well-attended by the town from the very young to the very old, including a lot of veterans of foreign wars, all proud to stand outside in a brutal storm to pay their respects.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: We gather here to recognize the sacrifice of our missing brother Corporal Jules Hauterman, Jr.
RATH: More than 7,000 servicemen who fought in Korea remain officially unaccounted for. The pace of identifications has picked up in recent years, but there are fewer surviving Korean War vets like Ralph Lafave to welcome home their fallen comrades.
RALPH LAFAVE: I came from a military family. I had three brothers all in the service. And I was having one in the Army, Navy and Air Force, and I was served in the Army. They're all deceased now, so I'm the last remaining one.
RATH: For Paul Welihan, Sr., and others in the extended Hauterman family, the fact that so many people remember means everything.
WELIHAN: We've been praying for years and years and years that they would find him, at least get some closure. We never knew for sure if he was dead or alive. All we knew was that he was missing in action.
RATH: You might expect these old veterans standing in the freezing rain to look frail, but they look strong. More than one of them told me this was nothing compared to the frozen battlefield in Korea where Corporal Jules Hauterman, Jr. perished more than 66 years ago. Arun Rath, NPR News.
(SOUNDBITE OF YEARS OF RICE AND SALT'S "AMONGST YOUR EARTHIEST WORDS THE ANGELS STAY")
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Correction April 18, 2017
A previous Web summary for this story incorrectly said an Army medic was killed in Korea in 1954 and brought back to Hawaii after the war. In fact, he was killed in 1950.