Relatives of an Ogden soldier lost more than 30 years ago in the Korean War say the possible return of his body would help them close the book on that chapter in their lives.
North Korean officials recently disclosed that they have the remains of Lt. Jack J. Saunders, who died while in captivity during the 3-year-long Korean War, which ended in 1953."It was exciting to know there were still some remains left and they knew it was him," Kim Padelski, Saunders' daughter, said Saturday. "It will make him seem like a real person. He had just been somebody I had been told about. This can be an end to it."
LaRell Basoco of Ontario, Calif., Saunders' widow, said the news about his body came as something of a shock, even though she really had no hope he was still alive.
"I felt that if he had been alive, he would have found some way to contact me," she said. "Not having heard anything at all, I assumed he was dead."
She had spoken to some men who had been with him in the prisoner of war camp who said he was very ill the last time they saw him.
When he was missing for so long, she assumed he had died and was buried in a mass grave.
"He was missing in action for 3 1/2 years before we got a government telegram saying he was presumed dead," said Basoco. "But this is the first time I had known anything for certain."
"I had just been told he had probably been buried in a mass grave," said Padelski, who lives in Layton. "And that seemed logical. It was kind of a fluke when we saw it in a newspaper article."
A relative saw an article in an Arizona newspaper last January about negotiations with the North Korean government to release Saunders' body. Military officials had apparently attempted to locate Saunders' relatives in Ogden, but had been unable to track them down.
Basoco asked a private detective to look into the matter, and he soon put her in touch with the officials in charge of Korean MIAs. But he told them the North Koreans broke off talks Jan. 26 because they were unhappy about U.S. sanctions imposed after North Korean agents alleged bombing of a South Korean jetliner in November. Now they're hoping that the scheduled Olympics in South Korea will encourage North Korea to release the body as a goodwill gesture.
Even if they get the body back, neither Padelski nor Saunders expects to re-experience the grief.
"It's really a thing of the past I guess," said Basoco.
Padelski was only 3 years old and doesn't remember ever having a father.
"Basically, I grew up without a dad," she said. "And that's not fun. Mom and I were close, but I never got to see how a mom and dad interact with each other and maybe how they feel about each other and those things you learn by seeing your parents."
She said she will be happy to accept the remains and hopes to bury her father near family plots in the Layton cemetery.
"It's actually kind of exciting because it can be put to rest," she said.