HAGERSTOWN, Md. — Tears accompanied family members’ feelings of long-awaited closure and happiness as long-missing Korean War veteran and Smithsburg resident Sgt. Roy Charles DeLauter’s remains arrived home in Washington County on April 19.
A procession of family and authorities, including Maryland State Police, the Maryland Transportation Authority Police from BWI, Army officials, and the Maryland Patriot Guard Riders escorted the hearse carrying DeLauter from Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport to Rest Haven Funeral Home and Cemetery. The plane departed Hawaii the day before.
“I just thank God. I’m just happy to have him home. I prayed for this,” said Evelyn Eccard, 93, one of DeLauter’s three sisters.
Sue Draper, DeLauter’s youngest daughter, said the day — with its honorary festivities and people standing at highway overpasses paying respect to her father — had been “amazing.”
“You couldn’t help but cry. Good tears,” said Draper, 73, of the Hagerstown area.
Draper was about 2 years old when her family received a telegram that Roy, 21, was missing in action.
After waiting 71 years for news of their brother and father, the family was notified in January that DeLauter’s remains had been identified using DNA from blood donated by Eccard and her sister, Margaret Carr.
His remains were among those contained in 55 boxes the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea returned to the U.S. in 2018, according to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, part of the U.S. Department of Defense.
DeLauter was buried April 22 at Cedar Lawn Memorial Park near Hagerstown’s West End after a funeral service at Willow Brook Seventh-Day Adventist Church near Boonsboro.
DeLauter’s unit was on the east side of North Korea’s Chosein Reservoir on Nov. 27, 1950, “when Chinese Communist Forces launched a large-scale surprise attack against U.S. forces at the reservoir,” according to the accounting agency’s profile page for DeLauter.
Four days later, the number of Chinese Communist Forces forced the 32nd Infantry Regiment of the 7th Infantry Division to withdraw south toward friendly lines at Hagaru-ri. DeLauter was in Company D, 1st Battalion of the 32nd Infantry Regiment.
DeLauter was reported missing in action on Dec. 2, 1950, after the 32nd Infantry Regiment of the 7th Infantry Division withdrawal to Hagaru-ri.
DeLauter is memorialized at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific’s Courts of the Missing in Honolulu.
Sharlene DeLauter, Roy’s oldest daughter, said the festivities at the airport all the way to Rest Haven were “more than we ever expected.”
“To actually see the coffin coming off (the plane) was just closure for me — and being able to touch it,” said Sharlene DeLauter, 74, who lives near Smithsburg.
“I can’t explain how I felt. I saw the casket, it was just amazing,” she said.
Jane Kline, 91, of the Smithsburg area, said she never thought she’d live long enough to see her big brother come home.
“I’m just glad he’s home,” she said.
Carr said she was “overjoyed that he’s here. This is home, a homecoming for him.”
“But he’s been home for a long time. He’s been in Heaven,” Carr said.