Sixty-seven years after Army Cpl. Roy John Hopper was killed in combat in Korea, his remains will be buried near his brother at Dayton National Cemetery on Friday.
Through DNA testing of relatives last June, the Army was able to determine his identity after he had been buried in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii in 1955.
Annelle Bowman, his sister and youngest sibling, never knew he would return.
“It’s just a shock, a total surprise,” the 72-year-old West Carrollton resident said in an interview Thursday. “A wonderful surprise … We’re just in awe of all this that is going on.”
Jessica M. Reynolds, 39, a great niece, never met her uncle.
“It was kind of unbelievable to be honest,” the West Carrollton resident said. “It’s been so long. It’s just been a story in our family what happened to our uncle.”
Roy’s brother Richard, nicknamed “Dickie,” served in Korea with Roy and by chance the two met the day before Roy was killed by a sniper’s bullet July 31, 1950 in Chinju, South Korea.
With Roy missing in action, Bowman — who was 5-years-old when her brother was killed — never thought they would find out what happened.
“We assumed that he was gone,” she said, “that we would never find him.”
His mother, Helen pressed the Army for answers until her she was killed in a automobile wreck in December 1951.
Richard kept the memory of his brother alive for years, hoping to find out answers. He died in 1991 and was buried in Dayton National Cemetery, Reynolds said.
“He was always the one that wanted to know what happened to his brother,” she said.
Bowman and her sole surviving brother, Ronald, provided DNA to the Army that led to the identification.
Cpl. Hopper led an ammunition detail to the front lines when they were ambushed and came under fire. Hopper stayed behind while his men escaped and survived. He was the only one in his detail that died that day. He was posthumously given the Bronze Star for his actions, according to his obituary.
His trip back to his family was uncertain from the start. Originally buried as an unknown soldier in an Army cemetery in Masan, South Korea, his remains were exhumed and sent to Army’s Central Identification Unit in Kokura, Japan in April 1951.
When identification attempts failed, he was buried as an unknown soldier in April 1955 in Hawaii, according to the Army.
His remains were disinterred in January 2017 and DNA testing at the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Laboratory at Hickham Air Force Base, Hawaii finally provided answers.
Army Sgt. Christopher ”Ryan” Reynolds accompanied his great uncle’s remains on an airline flight Wednesday from Hawaii to Dayton International Airport for the final journey.
“It is different and it is definitely a special honor when it’s your own family that you’re bringing back after all this time,” said Reynolds, 37. “It was kind of an emotional but humbling experience from start to finish.
“He was always in a naitonal cemetery with the brothers that he served with, but now he can be here with us.”
Originally, Roy Hopper was to be buried in Arlington, but the family brought the Pittsburgh native and former Merchant Marine sailor closer to his brother Richard’s final burial site, Jessica Reynolds said.
Funeral services were scheduled Friday at Newcomer Funeral Home in Kettering with burial to follow. Dozens of family members were to travel to Ohio from Georgia, Kentucky and Tennessee for a funeral service at Newcomer Funeral Home in Kettering.
The family has requested in lieu of flowers donations be made to the Korean War Veterans Memorial Foundation.
Bowman and Reynolds said they want other families in similar circumstances not to give up hope.
“To have him on American soil is just the greatest,” Bowman said.
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