'The care and reverence from everyone that made this ceremony happen is completely humbling'
WASHINGTON (KTVZ) -- A somber ceremony Wednesday at Arlington National Cemetery brought tears, salutes and the scenes we've seen so often, along with grateful closure for the family of a fallen Korean War soldier from Powell Butte who had been listed as missing in action for nearly seven decades, until his remains were returned and identified.
The services for Corporal Norvin Brockett had been delayed by about a year due to COVID-19 restrictions. But for Katherine Gandara, the niece he'd never met, and for others in the family, it was finally time to say both hello and goodbye, and it also was time for the Army and his country to finally be able to thank him for his service, and to bid farewell with the respect afforded in a burial with full military honors.
Brockett was only 17 when he convinced his parents to let him fight for his country, and just 18 when, in December, 1950, the member of Battery A, 57th Field Artillery Battalion, 7th Infantry Division, 31st Regimental Combat Team was reported missing in action when his unit was attacked by enemy forces in the vicinity of the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea.
His remains could not be recovered following the attack and he was not reported as a prisoner of war. The U.S. Army declared him deceased as of Dec. 31, 1953.
Brockett's remains were turned over by North Korea on July 27, 2018. He was accounted for by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency a year later, after his remains were identified using DNA analysis and other evidence.
Later Wednesday, Gandara shared with NewsChannel 21 her memories and thoughts about the long-awaited day she had thought might never come. We're honored to present them here, as well as a video prepared for the family of Brockett's remains arriving in our nation's capital:
"The care and reverence from everyone that made this ceremony happen is completely humbling.
"As we stood in the chapel, we were asked to turn toward the main chapel doors for the entering of the flag-draped casket. When the doors opened, I was overwhelmed by what I saw. There was a full honor guard with a company of soldiers, as well as a military band.
"Seeing our uncle escorted into the chapel reminded me just how long this journey has been. I thought about the burden my father carried for so many years, waiting for Norvin’s return, and felt such peace, knowing we had finally arrived to closure.
"After the chapel service, the caisson, troop of honor guard members, and military band proceeded to the burial site. All along the way, I saw park rangers, groundskeepers, as well as tour groups standing with such respect, honoring our uncle’s procession passing by.
"You could hear the steady beat of the drum as we made our way to Norvin’s graveside, passing so many headstones from nearly 400,000 patriots who went before him.
"I thought about how many times this kind of procession has made its way through this place. I thought about how the steady beat of the drum was a call to honor, and that all the service members resting there were also standing beside their final resting place, giving the final salute to the Soldier, Sailor, Marine, Air Force member joining them.
"Receiving the flag that draped our uncle’s casket on behalf of my family is a memory I will cherish for the rest of my life.
"Several years ago, I received a military coin, in appreciation for my military service. I kept that coin, with the idea that if our uncle was ever returned home, that I would place it on his casket, to be buried with him. Today, I had the chance to do that. When I placed the coin upon the coffin, my message was simple…'Welcome home.'
"Our family is eternally grateful to this nation, the U.S. military, the Arlington National Cemetery team, and every other military and civilian team member that prepared the way and gave final honors to Corporal Norvin D. Brockett."
“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter the words, but to live by them.” – John F. Kennedy