Korean War soldier laid to rest with military honors
IMLAY TWP. — A cloudy, chilly day greeted family and friends of Korean War veteran U.S. Army Cpl. Lewis W. Hill Saturday as thick, heavy clouds and the greyness of fall settled over the Imlay Township cemetery.
The gathering took place because of the U.S. government’s dedication and determination to account for as many war heroes as possible.
Before the brief ceremony was over, the clouds parted, the sun lit up the beautiful fall-colored trees and a final prayer was said for the fallen war hero.
A fitting symbolic welcome home moment.
Cpl. Hill, an Imlay City native, had his life ended far too early. He joined the U.S. Army fresh out of high school and was sent to the Korean conflict over 70 years ago.
He suffered fatal injuries during the conflict, at the young age of 18. His body remained unidentified for decades until recently, when thanks to technology and persistence, he was positively identified.
“We are so thankful, blessed and honored to be able to have the closure we sought for so long,” said Pastor Ryan Simmons.
“Lewis was my mother’s uncle and my great uncle. It is quite an honor to be able to help with the service and bring some words of comfort to family members. It’s been a two-year process, and this is a unique honor and I’m happy to have done this.”
Simmons is pastor at Lake Lansing Baptist Church.
As family members waited for the beginning of the service, Hill’s flag-draped casket rested under a canopy and was guarded by numerous military representatives.
Countless American flags waved softly, held by veterans positioned around the perimeter of the gravesite, as a Saturday afternoon breeze blew through the cemetery.
Simmons said authorities have been working the past couple of years to finalize the identification process and family members were relieved and thankful when the call came earlier this year, saying they had positively identified their loved one.
“We knew he was 18 when he was shot in South Korea. But myself and really, even my mom, never met Lewis. He never had children obviously. He was serving his country when his life was taken, and family members hoped and prayed this time would come. To get some closure and lay him to rest. Then, to be able to have him buried next to his parents made it all that more special for us.”
Simmons said the support has been wonderful. “The family members appreciate the local veterans (VFW and American Legion) who came out. The men from the color guard with the full military honors, the motorcyclists from the Patriot Riders. It says a lot about the fraternity of military members and to those from the public that are here paying their respects.”
The pastor spoke about the “patriotic bond” so many have formed having served in the various branches of the military, both from previous conflicts to the present day.
“These men and women who served and still serve, they fight side by side. They spend countless hours together and form their own family, so to speak and so, that brings comfort to the family knowing Lewis was with his military family during the war and now, finally, he has returned home to be with his immediate family. So, we have closure to a long process.”
During the memorial service, military members gave a 21-gun salute, played taps, folded the casket-length American flag, and presented it to nieces of Cpl. Hill. A representative of the Patriot Riders also presented family members with a memorial plaque commemorating Hill’s service to his country.
Following the service, family members were given the spent shells from the weapons used in the 21-gun salute.
“Those are very nice keepsakes and memories that the family will cherish,” Simmons said. “We have answers now, and that means so much to all of us.”
Of the 73-year journey of getting Cpl. Hill from South Korea to his final resting place and being identified, Simmons added, “any time a task comes to a closure and it’s a good conclusion, there is a sense of pride and accomplishment. Things are set here now and set right. It feels good to have him buried here, with his parents. For our family to know and not wonder any more, it’s a relief for sure and it’s a wonderful feeling, despite him being gone and the way it happened. He’s home now.”
Welcome home Cpl. Hill. Well done.
Thank you for your dedication and service.