KNOXVILLE (WATE) – A Tennessee soldier has finally returned home.
U.S. Army Sgt. Bailey Keeton Jr. was presumed dead on December 2, 1950, at the age of 20. He served along the Changjin (Chosin) Reservoir and was one of 2,500 U.S. soldiers to fight Chinese forces.
The U.S. and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea worked on a joint recovery operation and found remains of at least nine people near battlefields. They used DNA testing to identify them.
The remains of Sgt. Keeton arrived at McGhee Tyson Airport in East Tennessee around 11:30 a.m. Thursday.
“The family finally gets closure, so it’s a good feeling,” said Colonel Tommy Cauthen, Wing Commander.
The Tennessee Highway Patrol helped escort Keeton’s remains to West-Murley Funeral Home in Oneida. The family will have a visitation on Friday followed by a graveside funeral service.
“It’s long overdue to bring someone home back to Tennessee, so it’s a somber occasion but it’s also one to be happy about as well,” explained Colonel Cauthen.
Gov. Bill Haslam ordered flags to half-staff Thursday to honor Keeton.
“We applaud the continued efforts to bring home our Tennessee service members who have been listed as missing in action,” Haslam said. “Bailey Keeton Jr. answered the call to serve his country and we are grateful that his family will finally have the closure of laying him to rest in his home state.”