HAGERSTOWN, Md. — Tears accompanied family members’ long-awaited feelings of closure and happiness as long-lost Korean War veteran and Smithsburg resident Sgt. The body of Roy Charles DeLauter arrived at his home in Washington County on April 19.
A procession of family and authorities including Maryland State Police, BWI Maryland Transportation Authority Police, Army officials and horsemen from the Maryland Patriot Guard marched escorted the hearse carrying DeLauter from Thurgood Marshall International Airport in Baltimore-Washington to the Rest Haven Funeral Home and Cemetery. The plane took off from Hawaii the day before.
“I just thank God. I’m just happy to have him home. I prayed for that,” said Evelyn Eccard, 93, one of DeLauter’s three sisters.
Sue Draper, DeLauter’s youngest daughter, said the day – with its honorary festivities and people standing on the overpasses paying tribute to her father – had been “amazing”.
“You couldn’t stop crying. Good tears,” said Draper, 73, from the Hagerstown area.
Draper was around 2 years old when his family received a telegram saying 21-year-old Roy was missing in action.
After waiting 71 years to hear from their brother and father, the family was informed in January that DeLauter’s remains had been identified using DNA from blood donated by Eccard and his sister, Margaret Carr.
His remains were among those contained in 55 boxes the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea returned to the United States in 2018, according to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, part of the U.S. Department of Defense.
DeLauter was buried April 22 at Cedar Lawn Memorial Park near Hagerstown’s West End after a funeral service at Willow Brook Seventh-day Adventist Church near Boonsboro.
DeLauter’s unit was on the east side of Chosein Reservoir in North Korea on November 27, 1950, “when Chinese Communist forces launched a full-scale surprise attack on American forces at the reservoir.” according to the accounting agency profile page for DeLauter.
Four days later, the sheer number of Chinese Communist forces forced the 32nd Infantry Regiment of the 7th Infantry Division to withdraw south to friendly lines at Hagaru-ri. DeLauter was in Company D, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment.
DeLauter was reported missing in action on December 2, 1950, after the withdrawal of the 32nd Infantry Regiment of the 7th Infantry Division at Hagaru-ri.
DeLauter is memorialized at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific’s Courts of the Missing in Honolulu.
Sharlene DeLauter, Roy’s eldest daughter, said the festivities from the airport to Rest Haven were “more than we expected”.
“To actually see the coffin come out (from the plane) was just closure for me — and to be able to touch it,” said Sharlene DeLauter, 74, who lives near Smithsburg.
“I can’t explain how I felt. I saw the coffin, it was just amazing,” she said.
Jane Kline, 91, of the Smithsburg area, said she never thought she would live long enough to see her big brother come home.
“I’m just glad he’s home,” she said.
Carr said she was “thrilled he was here. It’s home, a homecoming for him.
“But he’s been home for a long time. He’s been in heaven,” Carr said.