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At least six sets of U.S. servicemembers' remains from Korean War return from North Korea

HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE, Hawaii -- A ceremony to honor the remains believed to be those of six U.S. service members lost during the Korean War marks their return to American soil at Hangar 35 on Hickam Air Force Base. The remains were turned over by North Korean officials to a U.S. delegation earlier this week. (Air Force photo by Angela Elbern)

HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE, Hawaii -- A ceremony to honor the remains believed to be those of six U.S. service members lost during the Korean War marks their return to American soil at Hangar 35 on Hickam Air Force Base. The remains were turned over by North Korean officials to a U.S. delegation earlier this week. (Air Force photo by Angela Elbern)

HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE, Hawaii -- A bugler sounds taps as the remains of six Korean War veterans are carried by a joint military honor guard here April 12. A ceremony to honor the remains believed to be those of six U.S. service members lost during the Korean War marks their return to American soil at Hangar 35 on Hickam Air Force Base. The remains were turned over by North Korean officials to a U.S. delegation earlier this week. (Air Force photo by Angela Elbern)

HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE, Hawaii -- A bugler sounds taps as the remains of six Korean War veterans are carried by a joint military honor guard here April 12. A ceremony to honor the remains believed to be those of six U.S. service members lost during the Korean War marks their return to American soil at Hangar 35 on Hickam Air Force Base. The remains were turned over by North Korean officials to a U.S. delegation earlier this week. (Air Force photo by Angela Elbern)

HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE, Hawaii -- The remains of one of six Korean War veterans are carried by a joint military honor guard here April 12. A ceremony to honor the remains believed to be those of six U.S. service members lost during the Korean War marks their return to American soil at Hangar 35 on Hickam Air Force Base. The remains were turned over by North Korean officials to a U.S. delegation earlier this week. (Air Force photo by Angela Elbern)

HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE, Hawaii -- The remains of one of six Korean War veterans are carried by a joint military honor guard here April 12. A ceremony to honor the remains believed to be those of six U.S. service members lost during the Korean War marks their return to American soil at Hangar 35 on Hickam Air Force Base. The remains were turned over by North Korean officials to a U.S. delegation earlier this week. (Air Force photo by Angela Elbern)

HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE, HI -- "I will never leave a fallen comrade." The United States military servicemembers of today live by that creed as they deploy with their comrades in arms to the current warfronts in Afghanistan and Iraq. 

On April 12th, at 11 a.m., inside Hangar No.35, that same conviction was evident as at least six sets of the remains of American servicemen from the Korean War, which took place more than fifty years ago, returned to the United States during a brief repatriation ceremony. 

These "fallen comrades" were carried, in American flag draped coffins, from the back of an Air Force C-17 by a joint military color guard. 

The silver metal containers were flown from North Korea on April 11 to Hawaii from North Korea. 

The remains were returned due to the efforts of an American envoy that included New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and former Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony Principi.
"This was a humanitarian gesture on their (the North Koreans) part," Richardson said. "This gesture will bring closure to at least six families. I'm just honored to be here in Hawaii. This has been the highlight of my trip." 

"I hope there are many more (ceremonies) of them," former Korean War POW camp survivor Paul Phillips said. "I hope they get them all out." 

The former Marine Staff Sergeant attended the ceremony with another former "leatherneck" and Korean War veteran James Ward. 

"We're here to pay our honor and respects to our comrades," Ward said. I thank all those that took part (in) getting those remains over here. (There) could possibly be someone we know in those boxes. It's a great privilege and honor. Every time we're able to come out, we do it."

Editor's Note: The remains were transferred to Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command at the conclusion of the commemoration for identification. Sometimes there can be commingled remains which might mean more than six servicemembers will be identified by JPAC during their analysis.