GONZALES, LA (WAFB) - After 61 years of not knowing what happened to their loved one, the family of Joseph William "J.W." Fontenot is now able to lay their loved one to rest.
In February 1951, Fontenot was assigned to the 2nd Infantry Division when he was captured by enemy forces near Saemal, South Korea. He reportedly died June, 28 1951, while in captivity at Camp 1 near Changsong, North Korea.
Fontenot was 20 years old. He was from Whitehall, Louisiana and was assigned to the Army's Company L, 3rd Battalion, 38th Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division in Fort Louis, Washington. He was a Corporal.
Before joining the service, Fontenot was a strawberry farmer, along with his father, in Whitehall, LA.
His family spent the last 61 years not knowing where he was and if his body would ever be located.
In 1954, United Nations and Communist Forces exchanged the remains of war dead in what came to be called "Operation Glory." Among the remains that were turned over at that time were remains of servicemen who had died in Camp 1.
All of the remains recovered in Operation Glory were turned over to the Army Central Identification Unit for analysis. Those which were unable to be identified with the technology at that time were interred as unknowns at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii.
"I couldn't ask for a better day," says Fontenot's Sister Barbara Fontenot Noel. "The weather's beautiful and my brother is home. He was just so happy and when he left in 1951 we got this telegram that said he had died. So we have been waiting for this for a long time."
In 2010, analysts from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) re-examined the case records and determined that advances in technology could likely aid in the identification of the unknown remains as one of seven possible soldiers. Once the remains were exhumed, scientists from JPAC used circumstantial evidence and forensic identification tools, including dental records and radiographs, to identify Fontenot.
Fontenot's remains arrived in New Orleans Wednesday morning and were escorted to a funeral home in Gonzales, LA. He will be buried with full military honors provided by the Army on Saturday, October 27, 2012 at the Whitehall Community Cemetery.
"We finally found out that he had been buried at the Hawaiian Military of the Unknown Soldier and they finally identified him by his teeth. Dental records," says Fontenot's Sister Melonie Fontenot Picou. "When he left we were crying because they said he was going off to war."
Corporal Fontenot's parents, three sisters and six brothers all passed away without knowing what happened to him.
Visitation will be held at Ourso Funeral Home, 13533 Airline Hwy., Gonzales, Louisiana on Friday, October 26, 2012, from 5 p.m. until 9 p.m. They will resume on Saturday, October 27, 2012, from 8 a.m. until the religious services begin at 10 a.m. Burial will immediately follow.
According to the obituary, the family of Corporal Fontenot would like to thank all of the branches of our Armed Forces and anyone who assisted in their untiring search and discovery of their family member.
They also would like to encourage other families to continue to pray that their loved ones missing in action will come home. To offer condolences to the family you may visit the funeral home's website at www.ourshofh.com.
According to the Defense Department, more than 7,900 Americans remain unaccounted-for from the Korean War. Identifications continue to be made from the remains that were returned to the United States, using forensic and DNA technology.
For additional information on the Defense Department's mission to account for missing Americans, visit the DPMO website at www.dtic.mil/dpmo or call (703) 699-1169.