On a bright, cold February day, Corp. Herbert M. King came home.
The homecoming was not the answer to the many prayers on his behalf as he served his country in Korea in 1950, but it brought comfort to his family who, for so long, had continued to wonder.
“I guess it’s a strange thing to say but Saturday was a happy day,” said King’s great niece, Lytricia King, of Troy. “To finally know for sure what happened and to know that he is finally at home.”
The soldier was laid to rest with full military honors at 11 a.m. Saturday at Carroll Street Cemetery in Troy.
The Rev. Larry Bland officiated the service and, in characterizing King, quoted II Timothy 2:3 – “Thou therefore endure the hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”
Not only was Herbert King serving his country, he was also serving in another army, God’s army.
Bland spoke words of comfort to the family of the one “who has been absent for so long.”
“We, too, are in an army – the Christian army led by God himself, and Jesus has already won the victory,” Bland said. “We serve the Lord with gladness and, as long as we keep our hands in God’s hands everything will be all right. We don’t have to worry anymore.”
A 21-gun salute, by an honor guard from Fort Benning, Ga., paid tribute to King, “a noble soldier” in the United States Army. In the distance “Taps” was sounded and the reverent silence that followed was interrupted only by the singing of the birds.
“A beautiful final tribute,” a family member whispered.
King was listed as MIA in Korea on Nov. 30, 1950 and until the summer of 2009 that was all his family knew – missing in action.
“My great-grandmother always wondered what happened to her ‘baby,’” King said.
“That was so hard for the family – not to know.”
Lytricia King’s grandfather, Charlie King, was only 14 years old when his brother joined the Army.
“He went off to war, and we never saw him again,” Charlie King said. “I feel so much better now. It’s comforting to finally know.’
The King family never stopped wondering but they had reconciled themselves to the probability that they would never know.
“In 2000, the United States Army was given permission to search specified sites in North Korea for the remains of fallen soldiers,” Lytricia King said.
“From military records, they knew which units were fighting in the different battles, but there were American, Korean and Chinese soldiers so it was a long process of locating the remains of the Americans and shipping them back to Honolulu.”
In the summer of 2009, a genealogist assigned to the identification task force, came to Troy looking for relatives of Corp. Herbert King.
“She went to the Pike County Courthouse and Gail Bland Green, who is a member of our family, was able to direct her to my grandfather, Charlie King,” Lytricia King said.
“But even though she had found my great-uncle’s brother, the DNA testing might not turn up a match.”
However, about three months later, Charlie King was notified that the remains of his brother had been identified through DNA testing.
The long wait was over. Herbert King was coming home to stay.