NEW ORLEANS — Funeral services are scheduled this weekend for a Louisiana soldier declared missing in action during the Korean War whose remains were recovered last year.
The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency says Army Sgt. 1st Class Lester R. Walker, of Ferriday, will be buried in Downsville after graveside services Saturday at Ruggs Bluff Cemetery. He was 19.
Walker was a member of Battery B, 82nd Anti-Aircraft Artillery Automatic Weapons Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division, when he was declared missing in action on Sept. 3, 1950, near Changnyeong, South Korea. The unidentified remains were buried in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, known as the Punchbowl, in Hawaii.
Scientists used dental, anthropological and chest radiograph comparison analysis to match his records and identify him.
Roy Walker, 81, said in an interview Tuesday that he never thought the day would come when his brother would finally be back home.
“It’s kind of amazing that they were able to match us,” said Walker, who is the last of eight siblings still alive. “I’m very thankful that they did. This gives us a bit of closure. I just thank the good Lord that he kept me around to see this. I figure it’s the only reason why he’s kept me for so long.”
Lester Walker told the military he was older than he actually was in order to enlist, his brother recalled.
“When he left, he was just 16 years old,” recalled Walker, who was 3½ years younger than his brother. “He came home after boot camp, probably two months after he went in service. That was the last time we seen him. He was reported missing about two years later and declared dead a couple years after that. But I always knew he would show up one day and, my God, he did.”
Walker said the graveside service will be at the cemetery where a lot of his relatives are buried, including his parents, grandparents and siblings.
“He’s going to have full military honors,” Walker said, his voice breaking. “We’re going to get him Thursday at the airport in Jackson, Mississippi, and bring him to West Monroe. On Saturday, we’ll take him to Ruggs Bluff.
“It’s been a long time. Yes, it’s a sad time, but also a happy time. He’s been out there so long and finally he’ll be back to familiar surroundings with family.”
About 7,700 Americans remain unaccounted for from the Korean War.
A rosette will be placed next to Walker’s name on the Courts of the Missing at the Punchbowl to indicate he has been accounted for, officials with the DPAA said in a news release.
This story has been corrected to show Walker was declared missing instead of captured.