TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — The family of 19-year-old Frank Vejar have been waiting for years to get his remains back to the United States.
Now, they have the answers they’ve been waiting more than 70 years to receive.
Jim Bell is an identification specialist with the U.S. Army. He was responsible for calling the family of Army Sgt. 1st. Class Frank Vejar and others who lost their loved ones in the Korean War. Bell says he’s worked over 100 cases so far over the years.
On April 14, 2020, the Douglas, Arizona native who was part of the Heavy Mortar Company 31st Infantry was accounted for and identified by DNA experts. This after U.S. leaders met with North Korea in 2018, who agreed to release 55 boxes of remains.
"Frank Vejar he was a Sgt. 1st Class was lost in the Korean War in the battle of Chosin Reservoir which is in North Korea. The remains were turned over to a modern-day lab where they can run anthropology tests, odontology if there’s dental work and the big one DNA, it’s the game changer that allows us to do these identifications,” Bell said.
Vejar was reported as missing in action on November 30th 1950, after a hard-fought battle. Out of 3,000 soldiers only 385 were left and fit for duty after the battle it became a devastating loss.
"He was a mortarman which is part of an infantry unit where he was located was up separated from the main part of the unit. They were attacked and overrun. Often times they were basically surrounded they had to fight their way back to the other unit. Once they got back to that unit they were attacked and basically surrounded,”Bell said.
Bell says his biggest message is to let people know that soldiers like Sgt. 1st. Class Frank Vejar will never forgotten.
Vejar will be honored along with 260 other soldiers at a special purple heart exhibit inside of the Gadsden Hotel in Douglas.
“I’m the lucky one that got to meet the family and definitely proud that we’re going to honor his sacrifice,” Bell said.
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