About 62 years ago, 19-year-old Joseph Angus Bowen was called to Korea. His remains weren't identified until 60 years later. (WRDW-TV / Jan. 4, 2012)
News 12 First at Five / Thursday, Jan. 5, 2012
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- A Korean War soldier killed in action in 1950 has finally been returned to his family.
At the age of 19, Sgt. Joseph Angus Bowen was killed in North Korea.
For years his family believed his remains were long gone.
Then about six weeks ago, Sgt. Bowen's two surviving sisters found out the U.S. Army matched his DNA to remains excavated 10 years ago.
"Brings back so many hurtful things, but it also brings closure," explained Ann Ford, Bowen's sister.
Bowen's remains were flown from Hawaii to Columbia for what the military calls "his dignified transfer."
"It's not something we do every day but something that we're very honored to be a part of. It's been incredibly touching to see the military and how much they care," said Poteet Funeral Home Director Brent Jones.
Eight men in uniform helped to carefully carry the flag-draped casket from the plane to the waiting hearse. Dozens of Patriot Guard Riders escorted the casket and family down I-20, back to Hephzibah and the funeral home.
"To see the way every part of the military has worked together to make sure that no detail goes undone, has been incredible," Jones explained.
Sgt. Bowen's remains and the remains of 10 other soldiers were excavated from North Korea in 2001 by the Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office. They were found on the site where the men are believed to have come under attack in 1950.
DNA provided by Bowen's sisters proved to be a match to their brother.
"They had never given up, they never gave up and we had almost given up," Ford said.
Now Bowen will go home to Hephzibah and be lain to rest with both of his parents.
"It's been one of the most moving experiences I've ever had as a funeral director to see how the family finally has resolution. They get to have a service. They get to have the peace of mind that their brother is going to be right next to mom and dad," Jones said.
It will be a homecoming ceremony 60 years in the making and one a lot of people are proud to be a part of.
"We want to make sure this tribute is unforgettable," he added.
More than 7,000 American soldiers who served in the Korean War are still missing, so Sgt. Bowen's family is one of the lucky ones who can be reunited with their soldier.
His visitation will be Friday from 6 until 8 p.m. at the Poteet Funeral Home on Peach Orchard Road. The funeral service will be held Saturday at 11 a.m. at Hephzibah Baptist Church on Georgia Hghway 88.
Bowen will be buried with full military honors at Hephzibah Vance Memorial Cemetery.