Korean War vet's remains reunited with South Texas family after 66 years

Korean War vet's remains reunited with family

Carlos Mendoza fought back tears as he read a poem to his uncle called "Remembering the Fallen."

September 1, 1950 was the last time 20-year-old Corporal Luis Patlan Torres was seen alive. Six decades later, his remains are finally on a flight, landing at the San Antonio International Airport.

It's emotional for Mendoza, a retired Army veteran, who's proud of the sacrifice that Torres made.

A migrant worker from Eagle Pass, the Korean War vet went missing when his battalion was overrun by thousands of North Koreans. He became a short-term prisoner of war. A witness saw his execution.

"We consider him a hero. He's done good for the short time he was out there," Mendoza said.

Since his death, his unidentified remains sat in a shallow grave near Changyon before being moved to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu.

Mendoza said that he relentlessly went through the necessary red tape to have them matched. Finally, last July, scientists used DNA and anthropological evidence to positively identify him.

"We had almost a full skeleton," he said. "They matched him 100 percent."

If he had lived, he'd be 86 today.

He'll be laid to rest Friday with a full military honors service at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery. The family is inviting the public to attend.

"Grandma always had hope he would come home," he said. "That was our goal: To find him and bring him home."

The family emailed KENS 5 these details of his death:

As reported by the Medical Examiner Summary, the cause of death certified as "Multiple Ballistic and Sharp Force Injuries of the Torso," and the manner of death as "Homicide."

On Dec. 20, 1950, a set of unidentified remains, previously recovered from a shallow grave near Changyong, were buried in the Miryang United Nations Military Cemetery as "Unknown X-331." In February 1951, the remains were moved to the Tanggok United Nations Military Cemetery. Although Torres was considered a candidate for identification, the remains were not identified due to a lack of substantiating evidence. The remains were then moved to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu the Punch-bowl area and buried as Unknown in Section U Grave 558.

After the family request to have X-331 disinterred, on May 16, 2016, the remains were disinterred and sent to DPAA laboratory for analysis. On July 19, 2016, the remains from Unknown X-331 were positively identified as those of my uncle CPL Torres.

To identify Torres’ remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used circumstantial and anthropological evidence, as well as DNA analysis, including mitochondrial DNA analysis through the Next Generation Sequencing technique, which matched my mom Guadalupe Torres Mendoza, my uncle Greg Torres and myself.

Carlos Mendoza is encouraging anyone who knew his uncle to contact him at 512-293-7262.

Schedule of Funeral Services - Open to Public

Tuesday, Jan 10th

Arrival of remains at San Antonio Airport, 2:21 PM

Funeraria Del Angel Roy Acker Funeral Home - 515 N Main Avenue, San Antonio

Thursday, Jan 12th

Visitation - 12 noon to 9:00 pm

Presentation of Purple Heart Medal to family - 6:00 pm

21 Gun Salute - 6:15 pm

© 2017 KENS-TV


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