Army Cpl. William F. Day, of La Center, was reported missing in North Korea on Dec. 2, 1950. After a long and winding search of nearly 64 years, his remains were brought home Wednesday.
Day's daughter, Gloria Shonrock - along with her husband, Ernie Shonrock; other relatives and two military liaisons - brought the veteran's remains from Nashville, Tenn., to Morrow Funeral Chapel in La Center Wednesday. They were escorted from Nashville by Patriot Guard Riders, Shonrock said, and welcomed into Ballard County with an escort of firetrucks, ambulances and police vehicles.
Shonrock was 4 when her father was reported missing. While Shonrock's mother didn't talk about Day often while she was growing up, the absence was still felt.
"I'd sit at the recess and cry because I wanted my daddy and - you know - you grow out of that, but you still want your dad," she said.
Shonrock said she has been searching for information about her father since 1992, a search that took her from her home in Erie, Colo., to Washington, D.C., and La Center.
Day's remains were found among 208 boxes of remains North Korea gave the United States between 1991 and 1994. In a recent announcement of the identification of Day's remains, the Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) said the boxes were believed to contain remains of 350 to 400 U.S. servicemen.
However, the remains were heavily co-mingled, which made identification difficult. Two years ago, Shonrock provided DNA to help identify her father's remains. Five years ago, she said, her uncle, Herman Day, and her father's niece, Mattie Terrell, also provided DNA.
In the search for her father, Shonrock attended yearly DPMO conferences in Washington and various cities across the country. At last year's conference, she said, it was announced that X-ray records had been found that could possibly be used to identify the remains.
"And between the DNA and those X-rays, they found my dad," Shonrock said.
Scientists from the Joint POW/MIS Accounting Command and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used the DNA and X-rays to identify Day's remains, which were located in Hawaii before they were flown to Nashville. Shonrock said Day was the 100th person identified from the remains contained in the 208 boxes.
"It's been hell sometimes, and good other times," Shonrock said of the long process. "And then it's been hell again because you have to deal with the government, and you sit there and hurry up and wait."
Among the good that came out of her search is that a military office in Colorado helped connect Shonrock with relatives on her dad's side of the family.
"I had an aunt in Washington, and I had this aunt and uncle here in Kentucky," Shonrock said. "And I've been here many times to see them."
On Monday, Day will be buried in La Center - with full military honors - next to his mother, Mattie Day. Day's name is among those listed on the veterans monument at Ballard Memorial High School, and before the funeral a memorial service will be held in his honor at the school.
According to the DPMO, Day was assigned to Company C, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 31st Regimental Combat Team in November 1950, deployed east of North Korea's Chosin Reservoir. The 31st RCT, known as Task Force Faith, was engaged by "overwhelming numbers of Chinese forces." On Nov. 29, 1950, what was left of the task force began fighting a withdrawal to positions near Hagaru-ri, south of the reservoir.
"Personally it's a closure that I don't have to worry about where he's at anymore," Shonrock said, "or whether he's in a ditch in Korea in the frozen area where he passed away, or...where he's at: because he's been in Hawaii since 1992-94."
Contact Leanne Fuller, a Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8653.
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