The Honored Dead come home

Despite the criticism coming from various quarters over President Trump’s visit with Kim Jong-un, there was one item of positive news which I certainly hope nobody could argue with. North Korea agreed to begin returning the remains of the Honored Dead of the United States, missing for nearly 70 years, so they can be placed alongside their fellow heroes in a place of honor. Yesterday, one of the first cases of that promise being fulfilled took place at Arlington Cemetery. It was announced on Sunday, and Army Maj. Stephen Uurtamo was at last laid to rest with the honors he deserved. (Associated Press)


Not long after her father went missing during the Korean War, Carol Elkin spotted then-Gen. Dwight Eisenhower in downtown Chicago and did what any kid might do when coming face to face with the nation’s most famous soldier: She asked him to bring her dad home.

On Tuesday, the now 76-year-old Elkin will be at Arlington National Cemetery to bury the remains of Army Maj. Stephen Uurtamo, nearly seven decades after he was taken prisoner by the Chinese and died.

It is a chance to say goodbye to her father, watch as his remains are laid to rest with the dignity and honor he deserves, and watch her children and grandchildren see that their own history is linked to the history of their country.

“This tells my family they are part of something,” said the retiree, who lives on Chicago’s North Side with her husband. “I just think that these kids might think we went from World War II to Vietnam and they don’t even know there was a Korean War.”

I’ve been through a few of these funerals and it’s always a somber but special moment. After the caisson arrives and the casket is placed, the Officer in Charge supervises draping the flag over the casket. The chaplain performs the internment service and then everyone rises for the firing of the rifle volleys. Taps is played on two bugles, one out of sight and providing an echo to the main bugler. A member of the casket team supervises the folding of the flag and the Officer in Charge presents it to the next of kin. And generally, most of the people there cry.


Maj. Uurtamo is back where he belongs and his family can take comfort. But many, many more remain to be identified and returned. This is only the beginning.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

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