Journal-Times (Grayson, KY)

June 11, 2014

Technology bringing closure to MIA families


June 11, 2014 — After 58 years in an unmarked grave in a military cemetery in Hawaii, a Kentucky soldier came home last Saturday to his family and a final resting place in his native soil.

Army Corporal Richard Isbell, who died in a prisoner of war camp in North Korea in 1951, was finally laid to rest in his native Johnson County, thanks to forensic technology.

Military technicians using state-of-the-art scientific equipment identified Isbell by matching the DNA of his remains with that of living relatives in Kentucky.

Gov. Steve Beshear ordered flags at all public facilities lowered to half-staff on Saturday to honor the memory of the Korean War casualty. According to the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO), the 20-year-old soldier was reported missing in action after his infantry unit was overrun by a superior Chinese force on April 25, 1951.

After the war, Isbell’s status was changed when returning prisoners of war said he had been captured by the Chinese and died later in a prison camp.

In 1954, Chinese and North Korean Communist forces exchanged the remains of war dead with the United Nations forces.

Two years later, a military review board declared Isbell’s remains as unidentifiable.

His remains were buried as unknown in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii, known as the “Punchbowl.”

In 2013, due to advances in forensic technology, scientists from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command determined that the possibility of identifying the remains was likely.

Earlier this year, the Isbell family was notified of the conclusive DNA match with the previously unknown remains.

Thousands of American war dead still are unidentified in cemeteries around the world.

With this amazing technology, many MIA families will be able to find closure for their sons and daughters.

In our opinion, our government should try to identify all of them.