Sixty-three years after Cpl. Robert Archer went missing during the Korean War, he was finally laid to rest in Brazil, Ind. Archer went missing during the Korean War and died shortly thereafter. But because his body was never identified, he did not have a proper burial until Saturday.
Remembering A Soldier, An Uncle
Archer’s flag-draped casket sits at the front of the room at French’s Funeral Home in this small town about 15 miles east of Terre Haute. Medals from both the Korean and the American governments rest on top of the casket. Veterans, friends and family pack the room.
After an opening song Pastor Chuck McMichael gives a sermon recounting Archer’s bravery and service to his country.
The corporal was only a few months into his service when he was captured by Chinese soldiers during the Korean War. He was just 19 when he died around 1951 – most likely of malnutrition and while still in captivity.
But it was just a couple months ago, in December, when Archer’s family received a call from the military. An official said they had found Archer’s remains in Southeast Asia—they had confirmed them through DNA tests.
“I never got to meet the man, but in your heart you know him because of the way the family talked about him,” says Robert Archer’s nephew John Archer, who sits in the front row during the ceremony, along with other nieces, nephews and their children and grandchildren.
Robert’s parents did not survive to see him come home. His father died at 35 in a coal mine and his mother died just a few years ago.
“Well, Dad talked about him quite a bit at certain times of the year,” says Archer’s other nephew Thomas Archer, who was too young when Robert died to remember him. “We knew who he was, but never met him. Wish I’d had the opportunity to do so.”
An Honor Every Soldier Deserves
Outside, the funeral procession gets ready to leave. Legion riders join the group on their motorcycles. Brazil residents wishing to pay their respects stand on the sidewalks up and down National Avenue, which is the street that runs through the center of town.
The post office flag flies at half mast as the cars pass by. And countless more flags line the street—one every few yards from the funeral home to the cemetery.
Once everyone arrives at the cemetery, a military escort moves the casket to the grave site They fold the flag and present it to the family members. Then they salute Archer with three rounds of gunfire.
Korean War Veteran Tine Martin attended the funeral and says he knows what it was like for Archer to go into duty at such an early age. Martin was drafted when he was 21, which is two years older than Archer was when he died.
“He was one of the first ones in,” Martin says. “I got there in ’51, and he got killed in ’50 probably when the war first got started.
Martin says the war was difficult and he still deals with the memories today, but he says seeing so many people come out in support of a soldier who died more than half a century ago is encouraging.
“It means a lot for veterans to see people and towns come out,” he says.
John Archer says he too was touched that so many people turned out to pay their respects.
“Standing out there with flags, saluting, crossing their hearts – it’s an honor for our family for them to do that. I didn’t anticipate there’d be that many people,” he says.
John Archer says he hopes any veteran would receive the same kind of support.
“The way I look at it, any soldier that comes home from another country that’s been missing, or they find his remains or something, like my uncle, he should get this,” he says. “No matter what. They’re protecting us, and they deserve it.
He says he only wishes more of the family could have been there to see the corporal’s return.
Lexia Banks contributed to this report.