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Korean War veteran identified, laid to rest in Westerville 71 years after he went missing

Through the advancement of DNA technology, the government identified Jack Lilley's remains and his family was finally able to give the soldier a proper burial.

WESTERVILLE, Ohio — More than 70 years ago, Jack Lilley was deployed to South Korea to aid that country in its fight against North Korea.

The Army Pfc. went missing in action, and was declared dead a few years later.

Through the advancement of DNA technology, the government identified Lilley's remains and his family was finally able to give the soldier a proper burial.

American flags lined State Street in Westerville and waved in the wind on Flag Day. Residents lined the streets and held the symbolism of freedom.

“It's Flag Day, June 14, but more importantly it's our mom's birthday,” said David Lilley.

David holds the only picture he has of his older brother, Jack.

“This picture was taken when my brother Jack was 17. He joined the military when he was 17 years of age in 1948,” David said.

Two years later he was sent to Taejon, South Korea on a mission to hold the advancement of North Korea. In July 1950, Jack went missing in action.

A year later a farmer found a mass grave. Seven soldiers were found and six were identified. The seventh was shipped to a grave to Hawaii.

With the advancement of DNA, the government exhumed that body for identification in 2019. That's when David got a call.

“He said 'David, I wanted to let you know we have positively identified your brother through DNA. We're going to be providing full military service,'” David said.

Seventy-one years after he went missing,  Jack finally returned home.
Though his parents didn't live long enough to see this day, they set aside a gravesite near family for him.

“Just a real honor that he was able to be brought home and be with his family again. We just think it's such an honor our country has provided for us,” David said.

Onlookers lined the streets for a man they never knew, just to make sure he was given the proper respect.

On this Flag Day, a day to remember the symbol of our freedom, a community gives honor to a man who died protecting freedom.

“My brother deserves it, he truly deserves it. He gave his life to defend a foreign country,” David said with tears in his eyes.

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