Korean War soldier's remains return home to Oregon

Published: Dec. 14, 2018 at 6:28 PM EST
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Nearly 8,000 members of the United States military remain unaccounted for, from the Korean War alone.

Even after nearly 70 years, researchers and family members of the missing keep the search, and memories, alive. Friday, one came home to northwest Ohio.

Army Private First Class Leo Duquette is originally from the East Side of Toledo. He died 68 years ago in Korea. It's been a decades-long crusade for his three surviving siblings to get his remains back home.

"On behalf of the army I'm sorry for your loss," one of the Army's representatives told the siblings.

Tears rolled down the cheek of PFC. Duquette's baby sister. He joined the Army when Ruth Tepper was only three.

"What has happened through the years is the stories. It has kept his life alive. And so he's not a stranger to me," Ruth Tepper said.

"He was missing in action on July 11th of 1950," Ruth's son," Andrew Tepper said.

Leo's parents feared he was a prisoner of war after receiving a telegram from Western Union.

"My grandparents receiving the telegram. The government was actively trying to find Leo," Andrew Tepper said.

For decades, the families only had guesses. That is, until a chance meeting with an Army researcher last year.

"Boy, we've got a better chance now to be able to identify him," Andrew Tepper said.

Then a breakthrough, as DNA and dental records matched the boy that left as Leo. He returned Thursday as a war hero.

"It's given us hope, you know. And it's just like a dream," Ruth Tepper said. "It's just like a dream come true. Because we knew nothing for years."

The three siblings, now a Gold Star wearing family, want others who are still searching for POWs and MIAs to keep the hope alive.

"I think we're seeing closure by bringing the remains home," Andrew Tepper said. "But I think this is just a first step for many other soldiers that are still out there."

"He's going to be placed with the family. And he's going to be honored, from now on," Ruth Tepper said.

After Leo was declared presumed dead, his parents held a mock funeral for him. They can't be here for tomorrow, for the real thing, complete with a 21 gun salute. But you, the public, are welcome to attend.

The funeral will be held at Eggleston Meinert and Pavley in Oregon at 10:00 a.m. Saturday, December 15th. The full military rite will happen half an hour before, at 9:30 a.m.