Poplar Bluff Korean War MIA buried after 58 years

By Crystal Britt - bio | email

ST. LOUIS, MO (KFVS) - Family and friends held an emotional final farewell at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery for a soldier who finally came home.

He went missing in action during the Korean War, and now he's back on American soil at his final resting place.  
Private First Class David Woodruff of Poplar Bluff died in 1951 at a prison camp in North Korea.    
Wednesday April 22, 2009 he was honored for his sacrifice.
It was a beautiful day for the funeral of a man who died 58 years ago.
In a national cemetery filled with veterans of our country's wars, it's as if the grave sat waiting nearly six decades to be the final resting place for David Woodruff.  
The pastor said, "We therefore commit his body. Ashes to ashes dust to dust."

It was day of unimaginable emotions for Woodruff's only child, Trudy Rankin.  She was just a baby when her father left for war.  It's a day she never thought she'd see.

"Now I don't have to wonder that he's being held somewhere," said Trudy Rankin. 
Woodruff left his home in Poplar Bluff in 1950 to serve in the Korean War.
The Army says he was captured and held by enemy forces and died in or near a North Korean prison camp in 1951.  
According to the Department of Defense, in the early 1990's North Korea turned over to the United States more than 200 boxes of remains of hundreds of U.S. servicemen, among those the military identification and remains of P.F.C. David Woodruff.
"It was just a complete shock because I never thought it would happen," said Rankin.
Trudy Rankin's half-brother Dennis Rankin said, "My mom had passed away. She never knew what happened. All she had was his picture".
"She (her mother) kept his love letters all these years, I still have them at home in my closet in a plastic bag," Trudy Rankin said. 
Woodruff has several brothers and sisters including Zula Lofton who still lives in Poplar Bluff.  
"Today is a beautiful day. It's a home going. It's closure and I'm so proud he's home," Lofton said.
"It was a lovely service...closure to all the wondering," Rankin said.
Woodruff was lowered to his final resting place remembered as a Prisoner of War and Purple Heart recipient.
He's home at last, surrounded by countless others who also paid the ultimate price.
"We expected him home for a long time. We always hoped, but it finally happened," said Lofton.

Scientists used dental records and DNA from one of Woodruff's brothers to positively identify him. It's taken the government since 1992 to do so.

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