PRIOR LAKE, Minn. (WCCO) — The remains of dozens of U.S. servicemen have returned to American soil for the first time in 65 years, helping families fulfill a promise to never forget their loved one’s sacrifices.
The repatriation was made possible by President Donald Trump, who discussed the matter with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un earlier this year.
As Reg Chapman reports, the promise came at the urging of a Prior Lake man whose family has been waiting decades for closure.
“Even though I was not yet 5 years old, I will never forget the grief that took over my mother and grandfather,“ Doug Arneson said.
For 65 years, Arneson has lived never being able to officially say goodbye to his Uncle, Navy Cmdr. John C. Micheel.
“Uncle John was a special person in my family,” Arneson said. “He grew up in the Depression, enlisted in the Navy, tested into the Academy, went to flight school, risen through the ranks to commander.”
Cmdr. Micheel was shot down while leading a dive-bombing mission in North Korea in 1953.
“But worse, no remains recovered and returned home to allow closure for the family, “ Arneson said.
So on June 17, Arneson wrote a letter to President Donald Trump.
“If you don’t ask, nothing is going to happen, so I asked, “ said Arneson.
Arneson thought the one-page letter was perhaps thrown out.
“Sarah Sanders started off her press conference yesterday talking about our Uncle, I about fell over,“ Arneson said.
Images of Vice President Mike Pence welcoming home the first set of remains from North Korea brought Arneson to tears.
Though it may take years to identify the remains, Arneson says he and other families can wait a little longer to honor their loved ones.
“The thing it says to me is we really don’t forget everybody has a right to come home to their families, and for all the other people out there don’t give up hope because somebody is going to have that opportunity to lay their family member to rest and that’s closure,” Arneson said.
There are more than 7,000 service members still missing from the Korean War.
The Department of Defense will use lab analysis of bones and DNA to identify the soldiers. For information on helping identify missing loved ones, head to wcco.com/links.