- Army Cpl. Edward Pedregon was declared MIA in November 1950
- His remains were found in 2004 near a North Korean reservoir
- His remains were identified using DNA and dental records
- Remains received a hero's welcome at a memorial in Texas
The remains of a U.S. soldier missing in action in the Korean War have been identified, the Department of Defense's POW/Missing Personnel Office said Wednesday.
Army Cpl. Edward M. Pedregon of El Paso, Texas, will be buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery on Thursday, the office said in a statement. A memorial service for him was held on Saturday in San Elizario, Texas.
In late November 1950, Pedregon and the Heavy Mortar Company of the 31st Regimental Combat Team, known as Task Force Faith, "were overrun by Chinese forces near the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea," the department said. After several days of heavy fighting, the task force was forced to withdraw, but was stopped by enemy blockades on December 2, 1950. Pedregon was reported missing in action on November 30, 1950, officials said.
"In 1953, following the exchange of all prisoners of war by both sides of the conflict, no further information was gained to indicate that Pedregon had been held as a prisoner of war, and he was declared dead," the Department of Defense said.
In 2004, a joint U.S.-Korean team excavated sites near the Chosin Reservoir and recovered the remains of at least nine people, along with military equipment, the office said. "The location of the remains corresponds to the positions temporarily held by elements of Task Force Faith in late November 1950," the department said.
Scientists from the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used dental records and mitochondrial DNA from Pedregon's mother and brother to identify his remains.
Pedregon's remains returned to a hero's welcome on Saturday, according to the El Paso Times newspaper. Three hundred cadets from several towns and 50 veterans from San Elizario lined the town's main street to honor him, and more than 100 members of the Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Club escorted a hearse carrying his remains to a chapel where Pedregon had been baptized. About 700 people attended his memorial.
The newspaper, which identified Pedregon as Eduardo Pedregon, said he was often called "Lalo" or "El Alacran." His remains were identified in March, according to the newspaper.
"It was a real surprise when we heard that they had found him," Pedregon's sister Lucille Gonzalez told the El Paso Times. "We were so close. The three of us -- it was always Bobby, Lalo and me."
Pedregon was 17 when he enlisted, the newspaper reported. His mother, Juana, signed the papers so he could serve.
"My mother passed away in 2003, and if she were here today, she would probably say, 'My beloved son, the image of your face was always in my heart,' " said Pedregon's sister Violeta Carrillo.
Family members said Juana Pedregon never stopped believing her son would return.
"Before my mother passed away, she would always say, 'He'll be back. He'll be back,' " Gonzalez told the newspaper. "And the important thing is that now, he's here."