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Stark County Korean War POW returns home to full military burial

Posted at 5:38 PM, Sep 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-24 18:41:38-04

SEVILLE, Ohio — After nearly 70 years since he was reported missing in action, a U.S. Army sergeant from Stark County was finally laid to rest on American soil Tuesday afternoon. Sgt. Vernon Judd of Navarre, whose remains were returned to the United States in 2018, was buried with full military honors, which also included a flyover with Korean War-era aircraft, at Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery.

Judd was reported missing in action in November 1950 when he was captured by enemy forces in the vicinity of Ipsok, North Korea. An American prisoner of war that was returned to the U.S. reported Judd died at Hofong Prisoner of War Camp in February 1951. For more than 60 years, Judd’s remains were unable to be recovered.

“It’s something that all of the kids, my aunts, uncles, my dad, everybody has talked about it. We just never thought it would happen,” said Lori Milligan, Judd’s great niece. “There’s a lot of people that won’t get this. I’m honored, extremely honored.”

Following a summit between President Donald Trump, North Korean leaders turned over 55 boxes that contained the remains of American servicemen killed during the Korean War. The remains later underwent DNA testing and revealed one of the boxes contained Judd’s remains.

“They submitted DNA, my father and his sister, like 15 years ago,” said Kenneth Judd Jr., the nephew of Vernon Judd. “When the call came in, we just didn’t know. We weren’t expecting it.”

Over the weekend, Judd’s remains were flown to Hopkins International Airport in preparation for private and public services held on Monday and Tuesday. Judd’s remains received a roaring escort from local law enforcement, Rolling Thunder and the American Legion Riders. Veterans and citizens alike paused and revered at Judd’s sacrifice as the motorcade entered Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery. U.S. Representative Anthony Gonzalez’s office helped to coordinate the events, which included a battlefield cross and a flyover of Korean-era aircraft.

“We’re just happy that he’s back. The support of the community has been phenomenal,” Kenneth Judd Jr. said.

According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, a total of 7628 Americans remain unaccounted for from the Korean War. The agency uses anthropological analysis, circumstantial and material evidence to identify the remains of U.S. service members that have been returned by Korean officials or recovered by Korean and US teams.

Although Vernon Judd’s journey home took longer than most, his family is happy he’s back.

“This is just a formality. He was home before,” Milligan said.