After 63 years, Pfc. Jerry Pat Craig is coming home to his family.
Craig was a member of Headquarters Company when he was reported missing in action on Dec. 2, 1950 while deployed along the eastern bank of the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea. He was 17 at the time.
This week, he'll be transported to Vernon Parish, where he will be buried at the Central Louisiana Veterans Cemetery in Leesville. A viewing will also be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Thursday, both at Labby Memorial Funeral Home of Leesville.
The service and both viewings are open to the public.
Anita Fields-Gold, who lives in Lake Charles, is Craig's niece and is the oldest surviving member of the family. To her, 63 years is a long time, but it's worth the wait.
"We're able to bring home this last broken link of our family chain," Fields-Gold said Friday. "Now I know where everyone is."
Still, the fact that they were still able to identify Craig's body after 63 years is a testament in itself, Fields-Gold said.
"It's the fact that the military has four branches that are still looking for their lost soldiers, and they're still making every effort," she said. "Yes, 63 years is a long time to wait, but they did it. If they could do it for someone from the Korean War, then they're pulling off miracles over there."
Fields-Gold said that she received a call the Friday before Veterans Day, but she missed the call, and because of how late she got the message that day, she could not call back until Tuesday morning.
"I thought, they either need DNA, or they found his body," she said.
Craig's body will be transported to Houston, Texas Tuesday along with a second recently-identified veteran from Sour Lake, Texas. From there, Craig's body will be escorted to the funeral home.
Fields-Gold said the choice of where to bury Craig's body had some challenges, because much of their family was "buried all over the place.
"I decided, he spent 63 years with his comrades, so he needed to spend eternity with them," she said.
However, this week's ceremonies won't be somber for Fields-Gold.
"In its own way, it's a blessing," she said. "It's a joyful occasion to know they're all home.
"63 years is a long wait," Fields-Gold said. "But don't ever give up hope."