Remains of Soldier Killed in Korea 65 Years Ago Finally Return Home to California Family

Graham Family (SAN FRANCISCO) --  The remains of a U.S. Army soldier have been returned to his family in the San Francisco Bay Area nearly 65 years after he went missing in South Korea during the Korean War.

After decades of not knowing what happened to him, Cpl. Robert Perry Graham's family is "finally finding peace," according to Nicole Venturelli, Graham's 51-year-old niece who knows him better as "Uncle Bobby."

Venturelli told ABC News Thursday that her father "was incredibly close" to Graham, and that ever since the military reported Graham as "missing in action" in 1951, "he'd always hoped Uncle Bobby would come home."

In 1953, the family learned Graham had been taken as a prisoner of war and likely died in a POW camp in South Korea in May of 1951, Venturelli said. He was only 21 at the time.

Despite finally learning what happened to Graham, the whereabouts of his remains stayed a mystery for decades, Venturelli said.

But in the early '90s, the family got their first lead.

From 1990 to 1994, North Korea exhumed and returned 208 boxes containing the commingled remains of servicemen from the war, according to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. Venturelli said that three of her cousins sent in DNA samples in 1994 to test for a possible match with the remains. They only heard back last September, she said.

"A lot of people have criticized the military and are wondering what took so long, but we learned it's actually very difficult to extract the DNA from these commingled, degraded parts," Venturelli said. "Recent technology has allowed them to make strides on remains they weren't able to identify a decade ago, and of course, they want to be certain they've identified the remains correctly."

Venturelli said that her 59-year-old cousin, James George, actually went to the facility in Hawaii where unidentified servicemen's remains are stored and that "he was very impressed" with the dedication of the workers, as well as the new technology.

George escorted their uncle's remains from Hawaii back to San Francisco Wednesday evening, Venturelli said.

"It was a beautiful night," she said. "There were policemen, firemen and the military and they did the tradition thing when they cover the casket with the American flag and walked it past the family. It was a big welcome, very emotional and overwhelming for us."

Graham will be getting a proper funeral and burial with full military honors on Friday, Venturelli said. She added that he will be buried next to her dad, who unfortunately passed away before her uncle's remains were identified.

"It means quite a bit because my dad always wanted to find him and they can now be together in their final resting place," she said, adding that she liked to believe the two of them are now catching up on the time they missed here together in heaven.

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