Korean War infantryman Paul W. Wilkins, a Blair County native, was declared M.I.A. in 1950.
Fast forward to October 2020, more than 70 years later, his remains were identified in Hawaii’s Punchbowl Crater.
Today, those remains were sent back home to PA, and buried in front of his surviving family members at Logan Valley Cemetery.
Wilkins was presumed dead and his remains were declared non-recoverable in 1956. However, recovered they were, and his family can finally have closure after decades lacking it.
Paul Wilkins was laid to rest again, this time in his home state, next to other family members.
“Closure, it’s a little bit of a…overused word sometimes but it’s very real in this situation, particularly after 70 years of being missing in action,” said Chris Wilkins, one of Paul’s nephews.
For seven decades, his family only knew he did not survive the Korean War.
Today, he was buried in Bellwood, 8 months after his remains were identified in Hawaii.
“It’s just overwhelming, I think the biggest word that comes to my mind is just gratitude, real sense of gratitude,” Chris said. “I served during Desert Storm from ‘88 to ‘92 and I myself assisted with several military burial ceremonies, a good buddy of mine died in Desert Storm, so I know the commitment involved andI know how much they appreciate that.”
For another one of Paul’s nephews, Chris’s brother Craig, relief is the first of many emotions he felt today.
“For the first time in days, I’m taking that deep breath and exhaling and saying “This feels great,” Craig exclaimed. “This feels absolutely tremendous, wonderful, I praise God for it.”
He says the pain of not knowing where his uncle was is now gone.
“That I don’t want to go home. This was just too neat to meet, see people that it’s so real I want to come back tomorrow when I’m not so hot and visit all the family members and then, again, pay one more tribute to pay my respects to Uncle Paul. Then, maybe things will come back to reality.”