After 62 years, Sgt. Stanley Wayne Bear is finally home and resting peacefully.
Bear, who was killed in action in Korea in 1950, just 12 days shy of his 19th birthday, was laid to rest on Saturday in the sun-dappled Kentucky Veterans Cemetery North East.
Bear, a native of New Boston, Ohio, died on Sept. 4, 1950, in Masan, South Korea, during the Battle of Pusan Perimeter. But his body never returned home from the war — not until Saturday, that is. Members of his family were notified last month that his remains had been positively identified through mitochondrial DNA testing. DNA from the remains was compared with samples submitted by Bear’s sister, Faye Bear Worthington of Ashland, and nephew, Patrick Worthington.
Bear’s remains were recovered about 10 years ago, after the U.S. began sending search and recovery teams to North and South Korea to locate the remains of unaccounted for American servicemen. They had been in the military’s custody, and Bear’s niece, Brenda Bear Marth of Wheelersburg, said they’d been kept in various locations, the final one being Hawaii.
Sgt. 1st Class Stephen Stuck served as Bear’s escort home. He accompanied his remains from Honolulu to Atlanta, and then from Atlanta to Columbus.
“It was an honor,” he said of his mission, which he said was unlike any he’d ever performed in his 10 years in the service. “It was amazing just seeing how respectful everyone was.”
An honor guard from Fort Knox performed Bear’s military rites, which included a 21-gun salute in his honor. Members of the detail also removed the flag covering Bear’s casket, folded it into the shape of a triangle and presented it to Bear’s brother, Carl Bear, of Pittsburg, Mich. Two additional flags were presented to Bear’s other siblings, Faye Worthington and Glen Bear of Stout, Ohio.
Marth, who is Glen Bear’s daughter, delivered her uncle’s eulogy. She said her father was 9 when his older brother joined the Army in 1948 at the age 17 and shipped out for Korea shortly thereafter.
She said her father always described his brother as “a gentle man who always had a smile for everyone.” He was also a tall man who often had to stoop when walking through a doorway, especially if he was wearing a hat, she said.
During his brief time in the service, Bear, a member of Company F, 27th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, received numerous awards, including the Purple Heart, Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Korean Service Medal, United Nations Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal and the Republic of Korea War Service Medal. Those awards are proof of how dedicated her uncle was to the mission, Marth said.
“He was a man of commitment and a man to be greatly admired,” she said. “He may have just been a boy when he joined the Army, but he died a hero.”
And, even though her uncle’s body was missing for more than 60 years, “his sweet, gentle spirit remained alive,” Marth said.
Marth said after the ceremony that having her uncle’s remains accounted for at long last had brought a sense of peace to her entire family. She also said it was good knowing they could come visit “Uncle Wayne” whenever they wanted.
The Patriot Guard Riders escorted Bear’s remains from Columbus and stood vigil during the service. Reed Funeral Home of Greenup handled the arrangements.
KENNETH HART can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2654.