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HEADLINE NEWS

Still hopeful
60 years later, family members waiting to hear news of missing soldier

By ANNA BROWN
You don't appreciate a funeral until you cannot have one.
Brenda Going says that is one comment that stuck in her mind during a recent meeting she attended in Charlotte with other relatives of her cousin, Cpl. Paul E. Craig.  A Union native, Craig was listed as missing while fighting in the Korean War and was declared dead by the Army in 1954.
Around two years ago DNA swabs were taken from the cheeks of three of Craig's cousins who live in Union - Frances Addison, Mary Arthur and Mrs. Going. (Mrs. Arthur has since passed away.) Officials wanted to see if DNA from the women matches that from bones at “The Punchbowl,” the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu. So far there has been no match.
On March 15, Mrs. Going and Mrs. Addison's daughter, Janice Wilson of Lexington and Mrs. Arthur's son, William Earl Sprouse, attended a Family Member Update.  The meeting was for families of Americans unaccounted for from World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the Cold War era.  Mrs. Going and Sprouse said the family learned more about the circumstances surrounding Craig's disappearance and they learned that officials plan to continue trying to recover remains and identify them. At the meeting, additional swabs were taken from Sprouse and Mrs. Wilson.
“There is always hope,” Mrs. Going said. “Anything can happen at any time.”
Mrs. Going said there were around 350 people at the meeting.
“We met people from New York, Connecticut, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia,” she said. “We met one gentleman from Columbia, S.C., whose brother was missing in Korea and was in the same division as our cousin, Paul. They could have known each other.”
The meeting was designed to provide an informal forum for information exchange between government officials and families of Americans unaccounted for from our nation's wars. Each branch of the service was represented along with officials from the State Department and the CIA. The meeting was to inform and to provide an opportunity to communicate with U.S. Government officials regarding a missing loved one. Each month a meeting is hosted in a different metropolitan area selected to provide accessibility and personal attention to the greatest number of family members. An evaluation form was given to each person for feedback. Many slides were shown about how the government conducts a search in a foreign country. The military is involved along with genealogists, archaeologists, anthropologists and others.
Mrs. Going said the family learned that Craig had been promoted from private to corporal.
“No one in the family knew that,” she said. “We learned that Communist China forces by November 1950 had joined with Korea to attack the Americans and U.N. Allies. The American troops performed a courageous and skilled retreat over the next two months. By the end of January 1951, the Americans were ready to counter-attack. On Feb. 2, the 2nd Infantry and Cpl. Craig and his 38th Regiment launched an offensive move in the area north of Wonju. The terrain limited what they could do. As they were moving about Cpl. Craig appears to have been captured during the course of the moving battle.”
Mrs. Going said later when friends gathered at the main Chinese camps on the south bank of the Yalu River, they exchanged information on men who had not survived.
“One of the POWS recalled that Cpl. Craig was on the POW march from Suan to Changsong in May 1951 suffering from pneumonia, dysentery, exhaustion and night blindness. The POW further stated he did not see Craig reach the Changsong Camp. The Chinese reported about Craig on March 2, 1956 as having 'escaped.' This is a common term the Communists used when POWS died or they had no record of what happened to them. The Communist side has made some U.S. remains recoveries since the war. We know they conducted excavations in the Changsong and Suan Camps but no remains have been identified as belonging to Cpl. Craig. Any new developments found will be forwarded to the family through the U.S. Army Casualty Office. We also learned that the Koreans sometimes bleach the remains they find so we will not be able to identify them.”
Sprouse said officials urge families to have a wait and see attitude. He said he and other family members realize now that Craig may be buried on the side of a road after dying during a forced march.
“They say to be patient until they can get back in there and search,” he said. “They may find your relative, they may not. We may never close this chapter.”
One of the most inspiring things for the three cousins was when each table allowed one family member to tell something about their loved one, Mrs. Going said.
“Of course there were wives and children who told about their husbands and fathers,” she said. “One lady from the Vietnam era sobbed the whole time she was talking about her husband. Many children told how they saw their mother faint from the news while others said they never had a chance to meet their father. There were so many other representatives of brothers, uncles, cousins, nephews, in-laws that were talked about. We all felt like one big family carrying the same burden. A comment was made that will stick with us was that 'you don't appreciate a funeral until there is not one.'”
“Keeping the Promise” is the motto of the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office. Mrs. Going said it requires a worldwide effort to ensure progress towards the ultimate goal - “Fullest Possible Accounting.” DPMO pledges to Americans who have sacrificed so much the following message - “To do the utmost to account for those who remain missing from past conflicts while ensuring proper resources and training for American recovery forces in current and future hostilities.”
Mrs. Going said she, Sprouse and Mrs. Wilson and others of their family thank those involved in the effort and encourage others who need information to contact the government and do research on the Internet.
“There are many ways for you to keep informed,” she said.
Craig was born on Dec. 9, 1928 and lived in the Monarch Community next to the old O'Dell's Store. He was one of five children of Algie and Virgie Shirley Craig. His parents and siblings - Raymond, Harvey, Helen and Evelyn - all are deceased.  Craig attended local schools, including Monarch Elementary. The family later moved to the Arcadia Mill Village in Spartanburg County. Craig was living there when he enlisted in October of 1950


(Posted April 14, 2014)

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