Imagine finding out your loved one was killed in action, but having no idea where they were located. Knowing they no longer may be subjected to any horrors they might have witnessed or endured is hardly any consolation.
Army Sergeant John Wesley Hall, of Jennings, Louisiana, enlisted in the United States Army when he was 23 years old in order to provide for his family.
“My uncle was the man of the family, and he went to war to take care of my grandmother, not knowing he would give his life for his country,” Stephanie Fontenot, Hall’s niece, told KTRK.
Hall was reported as missing in action on Dec. 1, 1950, in the area of Somindong, North Korea.
It wasn’t until after the Korean War that anyone had an idea of what happened to Hall. According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, an American prisoner of war reported that Hall died at Hofong Camp—known as Death Valley—on Jan. 26, 1951.
While the news was devastating, what upset Fontenot’s grandmother the most was that her love’s remains were not home. They were thousands of miles away.
Following the war, an attempt was made to recover American remains, and while some were returned to the United States, Hall was not among them.
That was in late 1954.
Five decades later, a Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command and Korean People’s Army team coordinated a search in North Korea. They discovered remains at a burial site and sent them to a laboratory in Honolulu, Hawaii, for analysis.
Hall’s remains had been identified. At long last, he was going home.
VIDEO: The body of a Louisiana soldier who was killed after being captured during the Korean War returned home Tuesday to be laid to rest in Houston. https://kprc2.co/2KHadAH?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=snd&utm_content=kprc2
Posted by KPRC2 / Click2Houston on Tuesday, July 3, 2018
Finally, on July 6, 2018, nearly seven decades after his death in the Korean War, Hall received a proper burial at Houston National Cemetery.
Veterans led the procession to his funeral, while the Consul General of the Republic of Korea offered condolences to Hall’s family and presented them with a medal.
The Army sergeant, who was laid to rest with honors, was also posthumously awarded the Purple Heart.
Although a bittersweet moment, Deidra McKinnon, Hall’s niece, was grateful for her uncle’s return.
She also had a message for those families who have yet to bring their loved ones home—there are currently more than 7,800 Americans missing from the Korean War.
“Just be encouraged that it’s possible and I’m grateful we have this opportunity and I’m grateful others will have it as well,” McKinnon said.
“It’s the bitterness was not having the final closure, not having him home,” Fontenot said. “And so now we can rest in peace with him.”