After 64 years, family gets soldier's remains
Updated: Monday, November 4 2013, 09:16 AM EST
Phelps, N.Y. - After more than 60 years, Karen DesCamp said she never expected to get the call generations of her family waited to receive.
The remains for her uncle, killed in the Korean War in 1950, had finally been found and identified. DesCamp said, “It was amazing, I couldn’t believe it!”
Although she never got to meet her uncle George, DesCamp spent most of her life looking for him. She poured through scrapbooks full of letters and photos to look for the answers to questions that have haunted her family for decades.
“It’s terrible not knowing,” DesCamp said, “after so many years, you know, no one ever really talked about it.”
George Conklin joined the U.S. Army in 1949, DesCamp said, he wanted to get out of the small town of Phelps, NY and see the world. At just 17, Private Conklin was sent to fight in the Korean War.
One year later, his family got a telegram that every military family fears— Conklin was missing in action.
“He was last seen December second, he had been wounded in his leg and was loaded up on a transport truck to make the evacuation and that was the last anyone had ever seen of him,” said DesCamp.
Four years later, Descamp’s grandmother received a Purple Heart, Conklin had been declared dead.
“The case was closed at that point, they had done all they could do,” DesCamp said, “no one knew anything else.”
The family, however, refused to give up— they wanted to find Conklin and bring him home.
For 64 years, DesCamp said, her father called the Army to ask about his older brother. “Yea, he wanted it bad, as did everybody else.”
In 2004, 50 years after the family received that Purple Heart; DesCamp’s father sent a sample of his DNA to the Army. That same year, Korea granted the United Nations permission to conduct an exploration and excavation mission.
“I think everybody always wished and hoped but being so far away,” DesCamp said, “I don’t think they probably thought it was ever going to happen.”
Nearly another decade passed before one of the bodies recovered from a mass grave in Korea was compared to his brother’s DNA— Private George Conklin had been found.
DesCamp got the call from the Army’s forensic lab in Hawaii in September. “My dad passed away seven months ago, so he just missed it,” DesCamp said, “But everyone would be overjoyed.”
A bittersweet end to a 64-year long search, DesCamp said her uncle George can finally be laid to rest.
“His remains will be coming home and he'll be with his family again,” DesCamp said, “he’s not however many miles away, he's out of North Korea.”
Conklin’s remains will be flown in from Hawaii Thursday and he will be buried next to his parents at the family’s plot in Ontario County.