CLANTON, ALA. — The body of a soldier who was declared missing in action in North Korea more than 60 years ago was returned to his family in Alabama and was set to be buried Sunday alongside relatives at a cemetery north of Montgomery.
Army Master Sgt. Olen Berry Williams’ remains were returned to his relatives in Alabama and were scheduled to be buried at Evergreen Cemetery, next to his parents, two siblings and one of his grandparents.
His relatives gathered at the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport and watched as his coffin — draped in an American flag — was lowered from the plane.
“We’re excited to be bringing him home … we’re glad he had been located and we can bring him back home with his mom and dad and brothers and sisters,” his great-niece Tammy Richardson told the Montgomery Advertiser. “Nobody ever gave up on him.”
Williams, one of 16 children, was declared missing in action in December 1960, and his unidentified remains were interred at a national military cemetery in Hawaii.
His relatives used forensic identification tools and biographical information to identify him.
“I think there always was hope. But the reality of trying to match remains was very difficult,” said Williams’ nephew, retired Air Force Col. Bob Williams. “Did we expect it? I was in the military for 26 years, flew combat in Vietnam. The idea of being able to see those people come home is really touch-and-go,” he said.
Williams’ relatives said giving him a proper burial brought a sense of closure to the family.