PINCKNEYVILLE, IL (KFVS) - The remains of a southern Illinois man killed during the Korean War have finally been buried in his hometown.
Army Cpl. Vernon D. Presswood, a 19-year-old Pinckneyville native, was reported missing in action on December 2, 1950.
About 66 years later, Presswood's remains were finally buried at home, where they will stay forever.
In 1950, Presswood was deployed east of the Chosin Reservoir when his unit was engaged by an overwhelming number of Chinese forces.
He was killed in battle.
In 1954, Presswood's remains were declared non-recoverable.
That changed in 2001 during a Joint Recovery Operation.
Recovery teams conducted operations on the eastern bank of the Chosin Reservoir, Changjin County, North Korea based on information provided by two Korean witnesses.
During the operation, the recovery team found possible human remains of at least seven individuals.
To identify Presswood's remains, scientists used circumstantial and anthropological evidence, including chest radiograph comparison, as well as DNA analysis which matched to McGee and her oldest son.
Presswood's remains arrived in St. Louis on Tuesday. From there, the remains were escorted to the Pyatt Funeral Home in Pinckneyville, Ill.
The remains were buried at Mueller Hill Cemetery on Dec. 3.
A prayer come true
"At first, I was shocked," said Presswood's sister, Phylliss McGee. "I just did not believe it...I just did not believe it."
McGee was Presswood's younger sister.
She was convinced Presswood was never coming home.
"Yeah, I never did think it would happen..." she said. "But now he's coming home...happy days, happy days."
She said it was hard not knowing what happened during the time he was presumed missing in action; and later after three years of searching, when he was considered killed in action.
Gig Shute was the last to see Presswood.
He signed up to enter the army with Presswood, along with four other guys.
"Trying to find work back then was kind of tough," Shute said."And we were all gathered at Rosie's cafe in Pinckneyville and discussing this and a recruiter came in there from the army. He told us how great it would be to be in the army so we all decided to join the army."
Gig was stationed about 70 miles east of the Chosin Reservoir when he got the news that his best friend was killed in action.
"I interviewed some guys that came back out of the battalion. There was 3,000 GI's there and about 350 walked out. And I went and talked with them and a man told me pretty well what happened to Doug."
Gig is the last one still living of the six that signed up for the army together.
"I've thought about Doug many a time in the 66 years and I didn't think they'd ever bring him back home."
That was until now.
Doug will rest in Mueller Hill forever, at home where friends, family, the community can thank him for paying the ultimate sacrifice.
"It's great, it's sad, I loved that guy."
Remembering a hero
A smile came to McGee's face as she reminisced about her brother, Doug; remembering the teenager who left to serve his country.
"He was just a good guy," she said. "He loved everybody."
Most remember Presswood for his personality.
"If you spent a day with him you had a good time and you enjoyed it very well, and a lot of laughs," Shute said.
McGee said she's just glad he'll finally be buried at home.
It'll be a different attitude for a funeral, joy instead of sadness.
"That's just the way I'm looking at it...he will be home and we're gonna bury him in the family plot," she said. "It's sad but it's wonderful too."
More than 100 people gathered on Saturday at Beaucoup Baptist Church to finally honor the man who gave his life to service.
"I thought that there wouldn't be anyone left and I just can't get over it. I just can't, the people that's here, and the people that's come that I didn't even know."
Even long lost cousins paid their respects.
"I drove up from Scott City, Missouri down below Cape and I started seeing the flags and I said this is great, you know that they finally recognize some of the things the veterans have done," Harmon Presswood said.
On Saturday, Doug Presswood was honored with a purple heart for paying the ultimate sacrifice.
His remains were buried at Mueller Hill Cemetery in Pinckneyville, where they will remain forever.