DALLAS — It took 74 years, several DNA tests and a lengthy flight to DFW International Airport, but the remains of Army Sergeant James Kenneth Park, who went missing during World War II have finally returned home.
Park’s only child, Bridgeport resident Kay Crawford, stood with tears of joy as she witnessed the procession 74 years in the making Thursday morning.
“He’s come home, he’s here,” Crawford said. “It makes me so happy and it’s brought me closure after all these years. He came home a hero to me.”
Park was just 20 years old when he was reported missing in action during a battle in the Hürtgen Forest in Germany in Nov. 1944. His unidentified remains were recovered and buried in a civilian cemetery near the forest before being reburied in Belgium in 1946.
Bridgeport resident Kay Crawford receives the remains of her father, James Park, who died in action during WWII in Germany. After 74 years, his remains have been returned home. pic.twitter.com/DFbvwbcwWW
— Austin Jackson (@a_jack17) October 25, 2018
In 2016, Crawford submitted a sample of DNA. In 2017, the remains were disinterred and tested.
In June, she received a call from the Veterans Administration that they had a match.
“When they contacted me two years ago, that’s when it really hit me,” Crawford said. “It’s bittersweet. It’s bitter that he didn’t come back alive, but it’s sweet that he’s coming home.”
Crawford said Park’s parents died thinking that he suffered from amnesia and would one day return home.
On Saturday, after the funeral in Bridgeport, Park will be reunited with his parents at the family burial plot in Barry, Texas.
“They waited all those years,” she said. “There’s a place for him and now he’s going to be beside them.”
Army Sgt. First Class Philip Oliver assisted in returning the remains to Crawford and the family. He said bringing soldiers’ remains back is important, whether they are returned home after a tour or after several decades.
“It’s a reminder to everyone that the government is never going to give up on their soldiers,” Oliver said. “No matter what, no matter how long or if they fall in combat. We’re always going to bring our soldiers home.”