Soldier's Remains Return to American Soil
FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- In the late morning of Nov. 6, a commercial jet touched down at Syracuse International Airport, marking the ending of one Korean War Soldier's saga that began with his enlistment into the Army in 1948, and ended with closure for his family.
Soldiers from C Company, 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, rendered honors as the flag-draped casket bearing his remains emerged from the jet, now parked on the tarmac, in a plane-side ceremony.
According to the Joint Prisoners of War/Missing in Action Accounting Command at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii, Pfc. Elmer C. Kidd, a native of Seneca Falls, N.Y., was assigned to the Heavy Mortar Company of the 31st Regimental Combat Team, or RCT, in late November 1950. His unit was deployed to Korea, and at an area east of the Chosin Reservoir near Sinhung-Ri, South Hamyong Province, North Korea, engaged an enemy force that was immensely greater in numbers.
On Nov. 29, 1950, what remained of his unit along with the remnants of the 31st RCT, which historically went to be known as Task Force Faith, named for Lt. Col. Don Faith, then commander of the 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment. Task Force Faith began to withdraw, fighting furiously as they sought to establish more readily defendable positions near Hagaru-Ri, south of the reservoir.
It was during this withdrawal a day later, that Kidd was reported Missing In Action. A military review board held in 1956 determined that he likely did not survive the withdrawal and therefore changed his status to presumed dead. He was promoted to the rank of corporal while on MIA status.
The location of Kidd remained a mystery to his family for over 60 years, until Sgt. 1st Class DeWayne Beasley, the appointed Casualty Assistance Officer, or CAO, whose normal job is as the platoon sergeant for the 2nd Platoon of C Company, 2-87 Infantry, reached out to them.
"I received the call from the CAO in Hawaii on October 30th that [Cpl. Kidd] would be here [Nov. 6.]"
Beasley's job as a CAO is a complex and sensitive one, encompassing many duties that are all critical in bringing home Soldiers who lost their lives in the line of duty. He knew the phone call was just the beginning.
"From there I had to notify the family, give them the times and dates as well as to notify the Honor Guard and the Soldier's unit," said Beasley. "I also had to take care of all of the arrangements, making sure they fulfill the family's wishes, answer any questions they may have and act as the liaison between the family and the Army."
Kidd was among numerous other servicemembers whose remains were turned over to the United Nations Command by the Democratic People's Republic of North Korea, according to the Joint Prisoner Of War/Missing In Action Command.
The funeral service for Kidd was held at the Sanderson-Moore Funeral Home in Seneca Falls, N.Y., Nov. 9. The battalion executive officer for the 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, presented a complete dress uniform, known as the Army Service Uniform, complete with corporal chevrons and a Purple Heart, to Kidd's family. It would later be placed upon Kidd's remains shortly before his casket was closed for the last time and the American flag was draped over it, just prior to the Honor Guard moving him to the hearse that would carry him on the last move to his final resting place.
"He would have wanted to be buried in his uniform," said Maj. Edward Sedlock Jr., the 2-87 Infantry Battalion executive officer.
The motorcade that escorted the hearse and the family, law enforcement officials, the Patriot Guard Riders and veterans of the Korean War, made its way thru the streets of the town of Seneca Falls. Masses of residents lined the sidewalks, some waving flags, others holding handmade signs either welcoming him home or wishing his family well. Local businesses also paid their respects.
Kidd's burial ceremony was held at the Sampson Veterans Cemetery in Romulus, N.Y. Although the family had the option to bury him at Arlington National Cemetery, they chose Sampson so they could visit him more easily. He was buried with full military honors, rendered by the Honor Guard from the 2-87 Infantry Battalion.
Senator Michael F. Nozzolio, a member of the New York State Senate, was in attendance and spoke at the ceremony. He conveyed his thanks and appreciation for Kidd, saying, "He has taught me many things today -- courage, service to country and the real meaning of sacrifice."