RITTMAN — Nearly 70 years after Army Pfc. Kenneth B. Williams was killed during the Korean War, his family and the U.S. military finally got to deliver a proper goodbye.
The Akron native, whose remains only earlier this year were identified through DNA evidence, was buried Monday at the Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery with full military honors.
“There were so many years and doubts of what happened where, when,” his great nephew Sam Kegg, 39, of Akron said following the service and a visit to the gravesite. “We’re so very happy that he’s home.”
Kegg was one of four relatives, including Williams’ niece Patricia Kegg, her husband George and Sam Kegg’s 6-year-old son Bo, who attended the ceremony. Other family had passed on.
The service included a three-gun salute by the Northern Ohio Army Honor Guard and the playing of "Taps." Ohio Army National Guard Brigadier General Anthony Digiacomo II presented the American flag that covered the casket to Patricia Kegg.
Veterans groups Rolling Thunder and Patriot Guard Riders also escorted Williams and paid special tribute at the ceremony.
Missing in action
The son of Henry and Abbie Gougler, Williams attended Kenmore High School and enlisted in 1948. He was 38 at the time of his death.
He was a member of the Heavy Mortar Co., 32nd Infant Regiment, 7th Infantry Division. He was deployed east of the Chosin Reservoir when his combined team of U.S. and South Korean soldiers were attacked by Chinese forces.
Williams was reported missing in action on Dec. 2, 1950.
His name didn’t appear on prisoner of war lists, but returning Americans reported that he had died in a prison camp.
Sam Kegg, who served in search and rescue with the U.S. Navy, said he had heard family talk about his great-uncle being wounded and then dying of malnutrition in the camp.
The U.S. military declared him dead as of Jan. 31, 1951.
Out of the blue
Sam Kegg received a call out of the blue about six months ago from the military trying to track down his mother Patricia, who had met Williams only when she was a young child.
“She was shocked,” he said.
The surviving family had figured that they would never receive his remains. Because of the passage of time and death of relatives, the small family doesn’t have photos of Williams to share or significant memories of him.
He was identified through DNA by scientists with the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency and Armed Forces Medical Examiner System.
It turns out his remains were contained in one of 33 boxes turned over by the North Korean government to the U.S. in November 1993.
The delay in identifying him was due to the number of remains being analyzed and difficulty in locating family, along with technology improving over the years, agency spokeswoman Sgt. First Class Kristen Duus said.
Williams’ name is recorded on the Courts of the Missing in Honolulu along with others who are missing from the Korean War.
A rosette now will be placed next to his name.
President Trump has pushed for North Korea to turn over more remains of unaccounted-for U.S. military. There are 7,677 Americans who are still missing from the Korean War.
Earlier this year, Chairman Kim Jong-Un delivered another 55 boxes containing remains of servicemen.
“Our family is grateful for all of the work that the Army and President Trump’s administration has done,” Sam Kegg said.
Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @armonrickABJ.