OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The remains of a U.S. soldier from Oklahoma City were returned to his home state nearly 70 years after he was taken prisoner during the Korean War.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Alfred Bensinger Jr.’s remains arrived Wednesday in a flag-draped coffin at Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City.
Funeral services with full military honors will be Friday at Fort Sill National Cemetery in Elgin, about 75 miles (120 kilometers) southwest of Oklahoma City, according to Bensinger’s son, Gary Clayton of El Reno.
Clayton said he was 2 years old when his father was sent to Korea and that he has no memory of him, not even a photograph of the two together.
“I’m just blown away about what the military had done here to get his remains back and to honor him,” Clayton told The Associated Press.
The Department of Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency — or DPAA — said Bensinger’s remains were among 32 people found near Unsan, North Korea, in 2005 by a DPAA/Korean People’s Army Recovery Team, and were identified in July 2017 using DNA.
Clayton, who said he changed his last name to that of the man his mother later married, said he had little contact with his father’s family, other than his grandfather and a chance meeting once with a cousin, although his mother told him that Bensinger’s brother occasionally visited her.
“My uncle, when I was very young, he did come by. She said just to check and make sure I was OK … but I don’t remember it,” Clayton said.
In addition to a brother, who Clayton said has died, his father has a sister who is in her 90s and provided the DNA that helped identify him. He said she plans to attend the funeral.
Clayton said his father had no other children, and that his mother died eight years ago.
Bensinger, 25 at the time, was a member of Company D, 2nd Engineer Combat Battalion 2nd Infantry Division when he was captured on Nov. 30, 1950. Returning American POWs later reported that he died in January 1951 at a POW transient camp, according to the DPAA.
About 7,700 military or civilian personnel remain missing from the Korean War, according to the DPAA.
“Worldwide there are about 83,000 Department of Defense personnel across the globe that have not been accounted for … going back to World War II,” said spokesman Chuck Prichard.
“We estimate about 34,000 are possibly recoverable,” Prichard said. “The rest would be, like, deep water losses that we don’t have the technology to get to right now.”
Clayton said he was notified late last summer that his father’s remains had been identified, but decided to wait until Feb. 16 for the funeral because that would have been his 93rd birthday.