BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A United States Army soldier who went missing in action during the Korean War is finally coming home.
Sergeant Clement Thibodeaux Jr. died 60 years ago but his remains were never found, until now.
His relatives are preparing for a special homecoming to honor the hero.
Clement Thibodeaux Jr., known lovingly by his family as "Junior" left his roots in Baton Rouge back in February of 1950 to join the United States Army. Soon after, he was deployed to North Korea with the 25th Infantry Division to fight in the Korean War. His nephew, Wilson Thibodeaux, was only a year old at the time. He said he knew his uncle only through stories his relatives shared.
"He didn't have much going on. He was just out of school. He lived with my parents for a while looking for a place to stay. That's unfortunate for him that the Korean War started right after he joined," Thibodeaux said.
The former Private First Class quickly climbed the ranks to Corporal and later that same year became Sergeant Thibodeaux. But his unit suffered extensive casualties while withdrawing in late 1950 and several men including Thibodeaux were captured. They were taken to a POW camp known as "Death Valley". Wilson said he recently found a letter Junior wrote his father ten days before he went missing in action.
"I am writing to everyone I can right now because we may not have a chance later on. We are about 50 miles from the Manchurian border. It's very cold up here. It gets to zero and lower at night, and this is just supposed to be the beginning of winter. I was just thinking and wondering where I'll spend my birthday and Christmas this year. If you do send any packages for Christmas, how about sending some eats. A package is like a gift from heaven. So much for now, Love and regards, Junior," Wilson read.
Three years after Junior penned that letter, returning soldiers told army officials Sgt Thibodeaux had died of malnutrition and pneumonia in 1951. His body was never returned. Wilson said his dad was on a mission to have Junior's body found and returned to American soil.
This year, Wilson got news from the armed forces that Sgt Thibodeaux's bones were located in a ditch in North Korea. Experts were able to match them to a DNA sample Wilson said his dad gave before he died.
"We all wish he was here to see all this. At least we're finishing the story."
Sixty years later, Sgt. Thibodeaux will finally be laid to rest.
Sgt. Thibodeaux's remains will be flown into New Orleans on Friday morning.
It will be greeted by a full honor guard and escorted to Baton Rouge.
Relatives plan to have him buried in Church Point, La. next to his grandfather this fall.