BILLINGS – Members of the Patriot Guard and local law enforcement gave a hero’s welcome Thursday for a Korean War veteran who finally made it home after nearly 70 years.
Army Cpl. DeMaret Marston Kirtley was a native of Kaycee, Wyo., who was last seen in Dec. 6, 1950 in North Korea.
He was reported missing in action following a Chinese attack on the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea, where he served as a member of the 57th Field Artillery Battalion. Kirtley was last seen near Hagaru-ri in the Hamgyeong Province in North Korea, according to an obituary from the Kane Funeral Home.
He was never listed as a prisoner of war, and the Army declared him deceased Dec. 21, 1953.
In 1954, an agreement was reached between the United Nations and North Korea to return each side’s dead. Kirtley was one of over 400 remains that could not be positively identified at the time.
His body was then transported to Hawaii. It was not until May 2017 that he was finally positively identified using DNA and dental records.
After Kirtley’s plane from Hawaii landed Thursday in Billings, his remains were escorted to the state line by the Montana Patriot Guard, Montana Freedom Riders, the Montana Vietnam Legacy Veterans, the Montana Highway Patrol, Billings police and Yellowstone County sheriff’s deputies.
They were met there by their Wyoming counterparts, who escorted him to the Kane Funeral Home in Sheridan, where people lined the streets to welcome their hero home.
A public visitation will be held at the Kane Funeral Home in Sheridan on Friday.
On Saturday, his remains will be escorted back home to Kaycee.
A memorial service will be held on Saturday as Kirtley is laid to rest beside his parents at the Kaycee Cemetery with full military honors. A reception will follow at the Harold Harrard Park gymnasium.
Kirtley was born in 1929 and enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1950. His parents and siblings are deceased, but he will be welcomed by nieces, great nieces and great nephews, according to his obit.
Story by Samantha Sullivan – MTN News