DETROIT — More than 62 years after his death, a Detroit soldier killed during the Korean War was buried with military honors Tuesday in Rochester Hills.
The cremated remains of Army Pfc. Ernest Fuqua Jr., who was 21 when he was killed in 1950 in North Korea, were buried in Christian Memorial Cemetery with the sister who raised him after their mother died.
"Just to find him and bring him home is amazing," said Fuqua's niece Sue Prill, 67, of Shelby Township. She had opted to have the burial where her mother, Benicia Nunally, was buried rather than in Arlington National Cemetery.
The remains, which had been turned over by North Korea, consisted of about 10 bones that were identified through DNA. They were cremated in Hawaii, Prill said.
A group of Patriot Guard Riders held flags, and other veterans and onlookers came to pay their respects at the cemetery. The cemetery covered the cost of the approximately $4,000 burial.
Prill and her stepdaughter, Sheri Hatton, 45, and Hatton's daughter, Kelsey Hatton, 19, both of Romeo, sat together as the bronze urn was carried to a platform in front of them. At one point, Prill caressed the urn before it was placed in a container for burial.
Prill, who was handed two folded American flags as part of the ceremony, also placed red and white carnations with the urn. Military personnel carrying rifles fired nine shots, and a bugler played "Taps."
"I'm just taken aback. When they started playing 'Taps,' I almost lost it," Prill said.
Prill said her mother would have been pleased that Fuqua finally came home. She said Fuqua initially was listed as missing in action; her mother learned that he had died before her own death in 1990.
More than 7,900 Americans remain unaccounted for from the Korean War, according to the military.
According to the Department of Defense, Fuqua was killed in action Nov. 28, 1950.
"Units of the 35th Infantry Regiment and allied forces were deployed in a defensive line advancing across the Ch'ongch'on River in North Korea, when Chinese People's Volunteer Forces enemy forces attacked their position. American units sustained heavy losses as they withdrew south towards the town of Unsan," according to a Department of Defense news release.
Patricia Kucharak, 82, a volunteer at the Taylor Veterans Museum in the Taylor City Hall, attended the ceremony. She said that she lost three friends in World War II and has grandchildren in the service. She said that it is important to honor the sacrifices of those in the military.
"These are our boys who fought our wars, and they need our respect," she said.
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