A soldier’s funeral, 61 years late, was held at Hephzibah Baptist Church on Saturday.
Lining the stage were eight wreaths, a Purple Heart and a casket with an American flag carefully placed across it.
Army Sgt. Joseph A. Bowen is finally home.
Bowen was killed in action Nov. 30, 1950, but his body remained hidden in the frozen turf around North Korea’s Chosin Reservoir until the end of last year. A few weeks ago, his sisters got a call they had waited for since that day. The Army had found him.
The Rev. Danny McGill described Bowen as a man who liked to strum his guitar, bowl with his big sister and playfully pick on his little sister.
Bowen signed up for the Army twice, McGill said. The first time he signed up, his mother had to sign because he was only 16 years old. The Army sent him to New Jersey and he was so unhappy he tried to walk home.
The second attempt was a year later. He trained as a medic and served at Camp Gordon. Then, 11 days after his 19th birthday, he was one of the first men sent to Korea.
McGill said Bowen wrote home as often as he could. His letters ranged from catching up on gossip to reassuring his mother. One month before his death, he told her, “there’s nothing to worry about now Mom, I want to come home too badly.”
He told her the worst part about the experience was the cold and he had seen almost no combat. When the Chinese found them, however, they were left to “fight for their very lives,” McGill said.
Veterans of other conflicts filled the pews, including a family friend, Bonnie Jacobs.
Jacobs fought in Desert Storm and her husband fought in Vietnam.
“It is such a privilege to honor a fallen soldier,” she said. “I’m just really glad that the community still recognizes and tries to come out and honor families like this.”
Jacobs, a representative from Veterans of Foreign War Post 649, presented Bowen’s two sisters, Margie Smoak-Gosnell and Ann Ford, with a Bible.
Eugene Chin Yu, the national president of the Federation of Korean Associations, spoke about Bowen’s sacrifice and gave thanks to him and his family for fighting for South Korea. He placed a 60th Anniversary of the Korean War medal on Bowen’s Purple Heart plaque.
“I’m sure he’s saying, it’s good to be home,” Yu said. “It’s good to be with my family, finally.”