CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — 19-year-old Army Corporal Pete Conley disappeared after North Korean forces attacked his unit in 1950.
For decades, he was presumed dead, and he became something of a mythical figure in his family, but on Tuesday his remains were returned to West Virginia.
“We have closure we feel blessed,” said his niece Kim Martin.
Martin was at John Glenn Columbus International Airport with other family members to welcome the casket with Cpl. Conley’s remains.
His nephew Jeremy Issac called the experience “mindblowing.”
“I’ve heard about him growing up my entire life, how he lied on his enlistment forms at a young age to join the army to go help out in Korea,” said Issac.
Conley made the ultimate sacrifice at just 19 while fighting in the Korean War.
In 2018 North Korea handed over several U.S. troops and in 2020 Conley was identified among them.
His niece Kim Martin says he’ll be buried next to her grandmother.
“We always grew up hearing stories about uncle Pete and we have copies of our grandmother’s letters that she wrote to the army,” she said.
The West Virginia Sherriff’s Association was there along with the family to welcome Conley back.
“We jumped in and said ‘we’ll take care of that for you,’ we’ve got some different Sheriff’s units from different parts of West Virginia here and we just want to make sure that the soldier is brought back home properly given the respect and the honor he deserves,” said the association’s executive director Rodney Miller.
Conley will be buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Logan County on Friday.