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Eldert J. Beek
Eldert J. Beek (Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency)

SIBLEY, Iowa (Tribune News Service) — For years, Eldert Beek's parents and siblings held out hope that someday he'd surprise them and return home from Korea.

Declared dead by the U.S. Army after going missing on Dec. 1, 1950, when his unit was attacked by enemy forces near the Chosin Reservoir, his remains had not been recovered.

Though the family had a memorial service for him and placed a grave marker for him at Evergreen Cemetery in George, Iowa, there was still hope he was alive.

"Before my dad died, he said if Eldy comes home, tell him I missed him and I loved him," said Cindy Brey, of Cushing, Minnesota, Beek's niece.

Brey's father, Arnold Beek, died in January 2019 at age 95, nearly living long enough to learn that his brother's remains had been recovered and identified. Cpl. Eldert Beck will be returned home and buried next to his parents, John and Minnie Beek, on June 14.

"It's bittersweet. However, we are glad that now we have closure," Brey said.

Brey remembers her uncle, the youngest of three children, as a happy, gentle young man who had no problem allowing her to climb into his lap when she was 4 years old.

"He was a very, very polite teenager," Brey said. "I remember him smiling all the time."

Beek was a member of Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division. He was reported killed in action after the attack at the Chosin Reservoir, but his remains were never recovered.

It was hard on the family, and Lanette Tracy, Brey's sister, said their father, a World War II veteran, rarely talked about his missing brother.

"He didn't talk about him a lot because I think it was hurtful," said Tracy, who lives in Oxford Junction, Iowa.

According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, Beek's remains were included in 55 boxes of American service members' remains turned over to the United States on July 27, 2018, after a summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un.

Beek's remains were identified through a DNA sample supplied by Brey's cousin, John Maxwell.

The Army Casualty Office notified Brey in June that there had a preliminary match, then informed her of a definitive match by late summer. The COVID-19 pandemic delayed the return of Beek's remains for burial.

Despite the delay, the family is honored to have a chance to pay proper tribute to Beek, whose grave marker will be replaced with a military marker.

"Now we know," Brey said. "We know where he's at. He's coming home."

(c)2021 Sioux City Journal, Iowa

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