Remains of Korean War POW identified, headed home - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Remains of Korean War POW identified, headed home after 63 years

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LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) -

Flipping through new forensic findings given to her by the military's Casualty Mortuary Affairs Center, Lake Charles' Anita Fields Gold recalls the little information she knows about her late uncle, Private First Class Jerry Pat Craig.

"He was 17 when he enlisted in the Army," she says. "He enlisted in May. He had just turned 17 the previous December". 

Almost immediately, PFC Craig went to Korea to serve in the Korean War.  

"On the second of December 1950, he was killed at Chosin Reservoir in North Korea," says Gold. 

That was 63 years ago. PFC Craig was killed at Heartbreak Ridge. At that time, soldiers' bodies were filled with formaldehyde, killing any traceable DNA. He was buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl in Hawaii and marked as unknown. 

"There's an estimated 83,000 Americans who never came home from World War II, Korea and Vietnam," said Michael Mee, Chief Identifications with the Casualty Mortuary Affairs Center based out of Fort Knox, Kentucky.  

Mee says a team of forensic anthropologists in Hawaii at the JPAC are constantly working to identify recovered remains, in hopes of matching them to one of the thousands of unaccounted for veterans.  

"With the laboratories, technology, the advancements and ability to go back and review the records of these unnamed interments, they can actually run and compare databases," Mee said. "They can compare dental matches, they can compare chest radio graphs and sometime get DNA".

All of that data and evidence was presented to Gold.

"They compared the different points and there were 25 items of concordance between these [bones] and these and that's a very high rate for just this much structure of agreement between the X-ray and the actual body," she said.  

"Far and away this is the most rewarding, fulfilling mission that I've ever been a part of so it's fantastic to brief the circumstances, bring back these fallen soldiers, airmen marines and sailors and meet with the families and to be a part of this whole process… it's an honor," Mee said. 

Gold now finds herself planning the funeral for the uncle she can only remember from photographs. He'll be buried with full military honors at the Central Louisiana Military Cemetery in Leesville. 

"For many families there's not closure until the body comes home," Gold said. "We didn't think we would ever see a body, so 63 years later we are seeing a body that's coming home."

Gold wants to the thank those who work in and out identifying unaccounted for servicemen and women. 

"I want the army to know that I'm most appreciative of what they have done, what the whole military has done to identify those who are no longer to identify themselves." 

It's a job that continues; honoring the many heroes of wars past and present, the wounded and fallen, in graves that are marked and unmarked, not to be forgotten.

PFC Craig will be buried on December 19, the day of his 81st birthday.

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