AUSTINTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – The remains of a military hero returned home to the Youngstown area on Tuesday.
Dennis Buckley was missing in action for more than 60 years after he was captured by Chinese forces in 1951 near Wonju, South Korea. Eleanor Stevenson doesn’t remember meeting him, but she is the only link to his past.
Buckley is Stevenson’s half-uncle. Stevenson is his last living relative and was asked by the U.S. Army if she would like to bring him home.
The Army learned about Buckley from a fellow member of his unit, who said Buckley died while in a Suan POW camp.
“Corporal Buckley’s name never appeared on any list of remains that ever came back to the United States, but this POW was able to identify and knew that name,” said Mark Lattimer, of Lane Funeral Home.
Buckley was fighting alongside the Republic of Korea against the Chinese People’s Volunteer Forces when he was captured. U.S. Graves Registration Services organized searches for missing soldiers in 1953, but he was not located, according to Buckley’s obituary. He was declared dead in 1951 and posthumously promoted to the rank of Corporal in 1953.
Stevenson said Buckley’s time in the POW camp was likely tough.
“The people over there were so poor that they were lucky they had four grains of rice for themselves, let alone feed the prisoners, so we know he didn’t get nothing to eat [sic],” she said.
Buckley’s remains were mixed with hundreds of others that were returned to the U.S. in 1994. Two family members had provided DNA, but they were long gone and the military couldn’t find Stevenson until December.
Among the seven medals that Buckley earned are the Purple Heart, a prisoner of war recognition and another for good conduct.
“Whether I knew him or not, it could be a stranger and I’m still glad he’s coming home,” Stevenson said. “I hope they find the rest too.”
Pastor Russ Adams, of Western Reserve United Methodist Church, will perform the funeral at Lane Funeral Home. He offered to help after hearing Stevenson telling the story at the funeral home.
Buckley will be buried Thursday at Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery near Akron. The full military ceremony will take place at 1 p.m.
The public may pay their respects to Buckey from 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at the funeral home, located at 5797 Mahoning Ave. in Austintown.