LINCOLN, Neb. – A Nebraska soldier's remains finally returned home on Monday, more than 66 years after his death in a North Korean prisoner of war camp.
A casket carrying the remains of Sgt. 1st Class Milton Beed was flown to Omaha's Eppley Airfield. Service members accompanied the casket, which was met by nephews and nieces who had never known him.
"He was always a hero in my eyes," niece Sue Jensen said. "I look at the military and he definitely sacrificed his life for us and his country."
Beed was captured and reported missing in 1951 while serving in the Korean War as a member of Company A, 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division. Beed, who came from a military family and had earned the Purple Heart, was fighting in Korea after service during World War, during which he joined in actions in the Pacific.
Army officials declared he died at age 30 at the Suan Prisoner of War Camp Complex in North Korea on Oct. 31, 1951. His family was later told he died of malnutrition.
Jensen, of Fremont, said his parents received a letter informing them of his death.
"I don't think my grandparents ever got over it," she said. "A part of them died with him."
Jensen said her family rarely spoke about Beed because it was too painful, but his presence was always felt. She grew up looking at his photo proudly displayed above her grandparents' television.
Before being sent to fight in the Korean War, Beed lived in Indianapolis with his wife, Mary Catherine.
Jensen said a memorial service was held in Battle Creek, Nebraska, near his childhood home in Meadow Grove several years after his death.
Her father purchased a grave and marker for Beed in hopes that his remains would someday be sent home. She remembers her father saying he would bring his brother home "if it was the last thing he ever did."
Five years ago, Jensen set out to find the uncle she only knew as a "true hero."
She contacted the Department of Defense to request her uncle's remains be identified. The department works to identify all remains, but requests become prioritized.
In the early 1990s, North Korea delivered 208 boxes with comingled human remains of more than 400 service members to the U.S.
Through DNA left behind by Beed's sister, researchers were able to identify his remains.
Sgt. Kristen Duus, a spokeswoman for the Department of Defense Prisoner of War Accounting Agency, said the department can identify remains through DNA, anthropological analysis or dental exams. The department mainly focuses on identifying the remains of World War II and Korean War veterans.
There are still 7,704 people missing from the Korean War.
Jensen found out in January that Beed had been identified.
"At first, I couldn't believe it," she said. "I was shocked and so ecstatic. I started calling all of our relatives and making arrangements for his service."
They will gather Tuesday afternoon for a visitation at Stonacek Funeral Chapel in Norfolk. Then on Wednesday, Beed will be buried in the plot his brother purchased at Hillcrest Memorial Park Cemetery , not far from his parents' graves.
After so many years of uncertainty and pain, Jensen said the service will give Beed the respect and recognition he deserves. She said his return will finally bring peace to her family.
"I really wish they were alive to see this," she said. "I know this would make them so happy, but I know they'll be looking down on it from heaven and smiling."