Texas soldier's remains from WWII come home after 74 years

World War II Army veteran James K. Park.


By DEANNA KIRK | Corsicana Daily Sun, Texas | Published: October 31, 2018

(Tribune News Service) — In every war, there are those who serve who never return to their loved ones. Sometimes their remains are brought home in a casket on an airplane, but there are many whose remains are never found. How do those families get closure?

Sgt. James K. “Kenneth” Park was returned home after 70-plus years on Saturday. Thanks to the DNA matching from three female relatives, Park's remains were found in a military cemetery in France.

Park, who was born in Blooming Grove, was living in Beaumont when he graduated most likely, because he enlisted in the United States Army in Houston in 1943. He spent time in Europe during World War II, and during a long, horrible battle near the Belgian-German border, Park lost his life, and his remains stayed behind for a time in the forest where he died.

This Saturday, Park was given a full military burial, as well as a large procession through the streets of Blooming Grove on his way to his final resting place in Dresden Cemetery. His daughter, Kay Crawford, who was 18 months old when word of his missing in action status arrived, was present, along with more relatives, including a first cousin, Wynelle Goswick Garrison, of Kaufman.

Garrison was one of 12 cousins to Park on his dad’s side. Of the 12, only she and younger sister Ellene Goswick French, are still living. Garrison is 86.

“I was 12 years old, and in junior high,” Garrison said. “I went home from school for lunch. Kenneth’s parents were at my house, and they had received word that he was Missing in Action.”

Another of her sisters, Eula Mae Goswick Haynie, was the same age as Kenneth, and the two were very close friends. Haynie passed away a few years ago, but her daughter, Nancy Haynie Neal and husband Danny of Frisco, picked up Garrison in Kaufman and took her to the ceremony in Dresden.

“I remember right after he enlisted, he came to church with us,” Garrison said. “We went to the Velvet Ice Cream Company in Corsicana, and picked up ice cream for dinner that day. I remember visiting their home, but as far as remembering him very much, I don’t ... but I remember going to my aunt and uncle’s home.”

Garrison said her husband, Eddie, is buried in Dresden and so are her grandparents. There were some second cousins there at the cemetery Saturday, as well, she said. Garrison’s daughter, Robbie Jennings, lives in Corsicana, and her children Audra and Brian live in Navarro County too.

It was quite by accident that Garrison even knew about the ceremony for her cousin. She was watching the news one afternoon, but also reading the paper, when she heard the words “James Park” then “Crawford” and “Navarro County.” That made her sit up and take notice.

“I said, that’s my cousin,” she said. “I didn’t realize I would be so emotional about it ... it’s personal to me. I knew him.”

Blooming Grove Police Chief T.C. Lawhon had taken great care to make sure Sgt. Park’s homecoming would be memorable for his family. A procession with the Fort Worth Police Officers and the Patriot Guard Motorcycles accompanied the missing soldier’s remains through Blooming Grove.

“What an honor it was to participate in the event,” Lawhon said. “It was amazing to see all the people come out and support a fallen hero. Cpl. Shane Richards with the Navarro County Sheriff’s Office notified me when the procession entered our county.”

Lawhon said once the entourage entered Frost he followed it, seeing the citizens of Blooming Grove lining the downtown with most holding American flags.

“Ashley Mahone had put out flags down Fordyce Street,” he said. “The Blooming Grove Volunteer Fire Department assisted in blocking off multiple streets, and the fire personnel passed out water to residents as they waited.”

Lawhon said he has much respect and appreciation for Fire Chief Chad Marshall and the BGVFD for all their efforts, and for Corsicana Fire Rescue for bringing out its ladder truck to display a very large American flag.

“I sincerely appreciate the Corsicana Fire Chief for allowing the use of the ladder truck,” he said. “And to all the citizens who made the event as memorable as it could be, my hat is off to you.”

Jordan Golden, resident of Blooming Grove, said it was an awesome experience to share with his wife and young children.

“The amount of effort and detail expressed by so many for a man they never met shows the true American spirit,” Golden said. “We are fortunate to live in the greatest country there is and sights like this make you remember and appreciate the ones that make this possible.

“The ocean of red, white, and blue in Blooming Grove proved that this small town has not forgotten."

Sadly however, Garrison and her niece missed all the citizens with their flags saluting and with hands over their hearts, as they went straight to Dresden Cemetery upon arrival in Navarro County.

Garrison said she very much wished she had seen that.

“My sister Eula Mae got a letter from Kenneth two days after he was declared missing,” Garrison said. “She has been gone five years now, and we can’t find the letter.”

Kenneth (as they called him) was born to Walter Park and Ella Threet Park. Garrison’s mother, Mae Goswick, was Walter’s sister. However, his mother, Ella Threet, was part of a very large family from the Frost area, which had a set of twin girls and a set of twin boys. One of the female twins, either Fay or May, is 101 and lived at Heritage Oaks.

“They had to have three DNA samples on his mother’s side of the family, and they all had to be females,” Garrison said.

Kenneth’s parents put a grave marker in the Dresden Cemetery when he was declared Missing in Action, so it was there his remains were buried by young military men from Fort Hood.

“That’s all I’ve been able to think about for days,” she said. “It was a lovely talk by the preacher, and I had been so emotional Thursday and Friday, but by Saturday I was somewhat toned down.”

Garrison said another ironic thing that happened was a couple weeks before catching the report on the TV news, she and her book club were at her house meeting. They had been reading a book about World War II, and she told the story of her cousin Kenneth to her book club.

“I would not have known about it if I hadn’t seen it on the news,” Garrison said. “And that was the only time I ever saw it.”

©2018 the Corsicana Daily Sun (Corsicana, Texas)

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