OMAHA, Neb. – The news that North Korea is sending home 55 sets of remains will be welcomed by the family of the missing parts of the Korean War. But most know that they are still faced with many opportunities to achieve a possible conclusion: Thousands of soldiers are still missing, and identifications could take decades.
Ruth Santella, 84, of St. Paul, Minnesota, doesn’t have much hope of living long enough to discover whether her older brother, the bones are among those released by North Korea on Friday. Private 1st Class George D’amico was killed in action on Sept. 27, 1950, near Taejon, Korea, according to a U.S. Army letter his family received in October 1950.
Her mother died still waiting on the news that his remains would come home, Santella said Friday.
“My mother went to her coffin with tears, about George,” she said. “She loved everything he ever sent her — a suitcase full of letters and things. He sent a typewriter to me. I still have it.”
Ted Barker, of Dallas, is a co-founder of the Korean War Project, that helps families of the missing Korean War veterans to submit their genetic information to, among other things. The DNA samples are processed on a military DNA lab in Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, and compared to continues to be stored in a military lab in Hawaii. The process is carefully long; some of the remains back from North Korea in the beginning of the 1990s still not been determined, said Barker.
“It usually takes six to seven years, if the remains are found,” said Barker. “If the family already has a DNA sample, it can be faster, but it’s still not an overnight process.”
Santella said that her family is still waiting since the submission of the DNA samples about 15 years ago. Their only clue is for the first time in a Army letter two years after his death, said D’amico, the remains buried in a temporary United Nations cemetery in Korea, and would be removed for Japan once it was deemed safe.
“If they just could have gotten from my mother, his dog tags, which would make her feel free,” she said. “If it was, she had always held on to hope that he was still alive in one way or another, wandering around in that country. That, perhaps, someone had taken him.”
Jan Curran, 70, of Gilbert, Arizona, was 3 when her father, a navy aviator Lt. Charles Garrison, died in prison, after he was shot down and taken prisoner in May 1951.
Curran dozens of years to find ways to repatriate her father’s remains. Years have passed since they convinced several family members to provide DNA.
In 2013, she was able to fly over the place where her father was imprisoned.
“It was a healing experience for me to see, and to know that he had been there,” she said. “It gave me peace of mind.”
Now, the thought that her father’s remains, perhaps, one of those which in america has stirred up all those emotions again. It is too much to hope for,” she said.
“It would be great,” she said, to sob, to stifle. “It’s amazing, after all these years, how many it still can’t hurt to have him.”