By Eric Eganeegan@abcnews4.com
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - After being declared missing in action for more than 60 years, a Korean War veteran was returned home on Wednesday.
Master Sgt. Ernest Grainger's remains were flown into Charleston and then taken to Conway with his widow.
It's likely Grainger died in the summer of 1950 while in Korea, but he wasn't classified as dead until 1953. Even so, he was never found, and his family from Conway, was left to wonder all these years.
According to records of Grainger's time in the Army, he was reported missing in action in 1950 after the 24th Infantry Division, 21st Infantry Regiment, K Company was deployed to an area along the Kum River in western South Korea. The unit was ordered to hold its position along the river so that retreating South Korean soldiers could move into more defensible positions further south.
During a fire fight in the middle of July, North Korean forces overran the U.S. positions, destroying the 21st Infantry Regiment. Grainger was reported missing after the fighting ceased.
Grainger's unit had been serving as occupiers in Japan before being deployed to Korea.
During Grainger's time in the military, he also served as a paratrooper in the 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment during World War II, where he trained in North Carolina and Georgia before shipping off to the Pacific Theater. While in the Pacific, he made various jumps and engaged Japanese soldiers throughout the Philippines.
After World War II, Grainger signed one as an Enlisted Reserve Corps member before signing on with the regular Army and heading back into the Pacific to occupy Japan.
Now, 63 years later, he was only a short ride away from home.
"This is why we're standing here free today," said Patriot Guard Rider, Larry Bothner. "This is why we fly our American flags."
Grainger gave everything when he lost is life fighting in the Korean War, he was just 25 at the time of his death. His surviving family, a niece and her daughter, stood by as Grainger's remains where carried off the plane.
Grainger's family got the call last June, he was found by South Korean soldiers. His remains were then flown to Hawaii where he was positively identified.
"He defended our freedom, it's a different generation now, World War II, Korean veterans, they deserve all the respect that we give our current soldiers," Bothner said. "They paved the way for what we have today."
Bothner, a veteran and Patriot Guard Rider, led a procession to Conway, the site of Grainger's boyhood home. It's also where his loved-ones had hoped for 60 years, for an answer .
They now have that with Grainger's return.
"(They must be feeling) relief, closure, happy that he's coming home," said Bothner.
Finally home, yet, another sacrifice from a generation that will never be forgotten.
"Thank a veteran, have respect for veterans, have respect for their families, the families go through a lot also," he said. "We show respect, that's what every American should do to a veteran."
Grainger's funeral will be held with full military honors in Conway on Saturday.