For nearly 67 years, the family of Hornell native Army Cpl. William Smith were left with questions after the 18-year-old went missing while serving in the Korean War. But now, Smith’s remains have returned after a lifetime of efforts to locate him.
Cpl. Smith went missing on Nov. 28, 1950 in Korea.
“I have felt his presence ever since I was a little girl through the suffering that my family went through on a very regular basis,” Smith’s niece, Terry Smith, said.
Smith’s remains were among a plethora which were returned by North Korea in the early 1990’s. Thanks to a DNA pairing with Cpl. Smith’s only living sibling, Raymond, the news of the the missing soldier’s location was finally known.
On Wednesday, Cpl. Smith’s remains were flown into Hancock International Airport in Syracuse. Then, the Patriot Guard and various levels of law enforcement, escorted his remains to Elmira.
“It just was a great feeling to know that he could come back home and get the respect that he deserves for serving his country and being a hero,” Tim Swank, who is married to Cpl. Smith’s other niece, Heather, said.
“It’s extreme gratitude that’s hard to put into words, mostly we’re just rallying around our father and celebrating this day for him,” Terry Smith said. It was Terry and Heather’s father, Raymond, who advocated for years for servicemen and women who went missing in action. Raymond spearheaded efforts for years to locate his missing brother.
“This is the fulfillment of his life’s mission, and it took 67 years, but my father never gave up,” Terry said.
Now, the family can rest easy knowing Cpl. Smith is back home, as answers to decades old questions are finally known.
“It brought a lot peace to our family, and a lot of closure, it’s been emotional the last couple weeks,” said Swank. “My wife, even though she never met him, she feels like it’s an honor to do this.”
Cpl. Smith will be given a military burial on Monday, Oct. 10 at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Elmira. Raymond Smith missed the homecoming on Wed., as he makes his way north from Tennessee for the funeral.