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Members of the United Nations Command Honor Guard carry the remains of UNC service members who died in the Korean War to hearses after a repatriation ceremony at Yongsan Garrison’s Collier Field House, Thursday.
Members of the United Nations Command Honor Guard carry the remains of UNC service members who died in the Korean War to hearses after a repatriation ceremony at Yongsan Garrison’s Collier Field House, Thursday. (Jimmy Norris / S&S)

YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — Members of the Yongsan community, visiting dignitaries and U.S. and South Korean veterans packed into a field house here Thursday to pay respects to the repatriated remains of six United Nations Command troops killed during the Korean War.

Six coffins sat side-by-side, draped in blue-and-white UNC flags as members of the command’s honor guard stood ready to honor the fallen.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and Anthony Principi, former U.S. Veterans Affairs secretary, accompanied the remains as they were escorted Wednesday across the Demilitarized Zone into South Korea.

The remains were brought to the Collier Field House on Yongsan for a 45-minute ceremony presided over by Gen. B.B. Bell, who heads the UNC, U.S. Forces Korea and the Combined Forces Command.

“The word ‘repatriate’ — to return to one’s own country — has a very special meaning for American servicemembers, who today often spend many years overseas separated from their families,” Bell said. “They have been promised that should they lose their lives in a foreign land, we will honor their sacrifice, keep faith with their fellow warriors and families and bring them home. This morning, for these warriors, we are keeping that promise.”

Following Bell’s remarks, the Honor Guard carried the coffins outside the gym and loaded them onto hearses.

The next stop is Hawaii, where forensic scientists will attempt to determine the identities of the servicemembers so the remains can be returned to the proper governments or family members.

“However forensic determines their nation of origin — the United States, Korea or other United Nations contributing nations — these servicemembers were great patriots,” Bell said.

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