Nothing can ever replace a loved one who has died serving their country in uniform. But for the family members of such heroes, the return of the fallen servicemember’s remains for a dignified burial can carry some small measure of closure.
Unfortunately, the chaotic nature of war dictates that even this small comfort is sometimes denied to military families.
Such was the case for the family of Early Henry Hansel, as recently covered by the Palm Beach Post. Hansel served in the Navy during World War II, and volunteered for the Army when the U.S. entered the Korean War. His sister Edith (now 96) summed up his attitude:
“He really didn’t have to go. My dad begged him not to go,” Edith Hester said Dec. 2. “But he loved the military. And he wanted to go over there instead of they might come over here.”
Earl was with the 38th Infantry Regiment during a fierce battle in May 1951. Some of the unit’s positions were overrun, resulting in some of the last large-scale captures of U.S. troops during the war. Hansel was taken to a mining camp where colleagues said he died of disease or malnutrition.
Members of the Hansel family have provided DNA to test against remains recovered by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), but none were a match.
Still hoping for a return, Edith has a spot reserved for Earl in the family plot at the local cemetery.
thumbnail courtesy of mypalmbeachpost.com
For more on the work of the DPAA, visit the agency’s site. The agency does successfully identify and repatriate the remains of many fallen servicemembers each year, and you can read about those for whom they have accounted at their news page here.