News 12 at 6 o'clock / Saturday, Jan. 7, 2012
HEPHZIBAH, Ga. -- Army Sgt. Joseph A. Bowen lost his life in the Korean War more than 60 years ago.
But it wasn't until weeks ago when his remains were finally identified.
He was laid to rest Saturday, and his family invited News 12 along for a moment they've waited for -- for decades.
Pastor Danny McGill, the pastor at Hephzibah Baptist Church, gave the service.
"Sgt. Bowen was a fun, loving young man," McGill said. "He was the kind of young man who obviously loved his country."
And lost his life fighting to protect it. He served as a medic, taking care of the wounded.
McGill shared stories of Sgt. Bowen, stories that brought back old memories for the family and those who congregated at his old church, Hephzibah Baptist, on Saturday.
"He actually joined the army twice. One, when he was 16, but he was too young, so his mother signed for him," McGill told the congregation.
He then read a letter written by Sgt. Bowen just a month before the battle that took his life.
"There's nothing to worry about now, Mom. I want to come home too badly to get hurt," he said in the letter.
But it would take six decades for him to finally make it home.
Brent Jones from Poteet Funeral Home shared a few words.
"Freedom has had a high price, but we've never been unwilling to pay that price," Jones said. "And in front of us today is a symbol that communicates through time, through years."
Ann Ford, one of Sgt. Bowen's two living sisters, told News 12, "It's just one of those bittersweet experiences," as she recalled the moment she found out her brother's remains were finally found.
"It brings back so many hurtful things," Ford said.
But the proper military burial for Sgt. Bowen brought closure to a family that has been hurting for years, and also gave everyone a chance to say thanks.
Patriot Guard Riders lined the sidewalk to the funeral and led the way to the burial.
"As long as you wore a uniform serving our country, you're my brother or my sister. And it doesn't matter when you served. Whether it was 61 years ago or whether it's today," said Paul Knox of the Patriot Guard Riders.
Knox said he was happy to help out.
"The least I can do is be here to bring my brother home and give him the burial he richly deserves," he said.
And even though his family is thankful his body is finally laid to rest, McGill says, "He's been home, in many ways, for a long time."
Many gathered at Sgt. Bowen's graveside -- from Boy Scout troops to veterans, family and those who just wanted to say thanks to a soldier who gave it all. All came to pay their respects to a fallen hero who is finally home.