He was only 20 years old when Corporal Roy Fink went missing during combat in the Korean War. More than six decades later, his remains are finally back home in Buffalo and in their final resting place.
Fink is one of an estimated 1,000 U.S. servicemen killed during the battle at Chosin Reservoir in late 1950. He went missing on December 2 of that year and was declared legally dead three years later.
Friday morning at Forest Lawn Cemetery, Fink received full military honors during his interment ceremony and was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart.
Fink's nephew, Paul DeFrain, was handed the flag draped over the coffin. He, along with his cousins Clifford Vernon Anderson and Gregory Lund, expressed their happiness and relief that their uncle was finally resting in the U.S. Their hope is that their story of closure will be one of hope for other families still missing loved ones overseas.
"We sincerely hope that this is the start of something, as far as getting the answers to others that may be missing or killed in action," said Lund.
The cousins praised the U.S. Army for what they say was the military's determination to find and identify their uncle, then bring him home.
"You can count on the Army never giving up," said DrFrain. "If we could find our uncle, if the Army could find our uncle and bring him home 66 years later, that should give hope to everyone."
Most of those who came to the interment ceremony never knew Fink. Some were veterans, including retired Erie County Sheriff Thomas Higgins.
"He's here where he grew up for a few years," said Higgins, who also served in Korea. "He'd be about 85 or 86 if he was alive today. Very few people remember him but it's nice to see the people that are here. A lot of veterans."
Members of the Patriot Guard Riders lined up outside the cemetery chapel during the ceremony, holding U.S. flags. They also mounted their motorcycles and escorted the hearse carrying Fink's remains from the chapel to his grave site elsewhere on the grounds.
Others who came simply wanted to pay their respects to a soldier who gave his young life for his nation. In attendance was Jeff Schuler, who volunteers as Santa Claus at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport every December to welcome troops home. He spoke of what Friday's ceremony meant for Fink's surviving family.
"It meant a lot to the family, you know, for what they've gone through for over 60 years," Schuler said. "Hopefully there's other families that can have this relief."