WAHPETON, N.D. – More than a half-century after Pvt. Joseph Meyer Jr. disappeared while fighting in the Korean War, the Army has told his family his remains will be coming home.
Meyer was 17 when he left Wahpeton to enlist in the Army. He was declared missing in action in 1950, with few clues offered to his family.
About 10 years ago, two of his sisters submitted DNA samples to the Army.
"I didn't think it would do any good," said one of the sisters, Alice Pausch. "At that point, I had lost hope already."
Pausch, 79, and her husband received a phone message at their farm home southwest of Wahpeton last week saying the Army had information for them. They learned Meyer's remains were found with no identification in a mass grave in North Korea.
"That's unreal. That's just amazing," Pausch said. "It's a positive match. He had no dog tags or nothing. If we hadn't given the blood sample, we would have never known."
Meyer's sisters remember their red-haired, freckle-faced brother as straight-laced and well-liked. He liked to play football, but decided to enlist in the Army rather than stay in school.
His family was not told how he died. The Army is releasing few details, saying paperwork has not been completed.
"It's a pending identification," Army spokeswoman Shari Lawrence said. Army representatives plan to visit Meyer's oldest sister, 80-year-old Emma Wolfe, next week, Pausch said.
"It's not that often that we bring anyone home from Korea," Lawrence said.
Pausch has the last letter her brother wrote from combat on Oct. 9, 1950, saying he hoped to see his young nieces and nephews when he came home.
The remains are to be flown home from Hawaii a few days before Meyer's funeral, scheduled for May 3. He will be buried with full military honors.
"It's closure," Pausch said. "After all these years, now we know."