KNOXVILLE (WATE) – A Tennessee soldier is finally returning home.
Keeton was presumed dead on December 2, 1950, at the age of 20. He served along the Changjin (Chosin) Reservoir. He was one of 2,500 U.S. soldiers to fight Chinese forces.
The U.S. and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea worked on a joint recovery operation and found remains of at least nine people near battlefields. DNA testing helped identify the remains.
The remains of U.S. Army Sergeant Bailey Keeton, Jr. were returned to East Tennessee Thursday. Keeton’s remains arrived at McGhee Tyson Airport at around 11:30 a.m.
“The family finally gets closure, so it’s a good feeling,” said Colonel Tommy Cauthen Wing Commander.
Tennessee Highway Patrol helped escort his remains to West-Murley Funeral Home in Oneida. The family is planning a visitation on Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. A graveside funeral service will be at Hazel Valley Memorial Cemetery at 2 p.m.
“It’s long overdue to bring someone home back to Tennessee, so it’s a somber occasion but it’s also one to be happy about as well,” said Colonel Tommy Cauthen Wing Commander.
Governor Bill Haslam has ordered flags to half-staff on June 25 to honor Keeton.
“We applaud the continued efforts to bring home our Tennessee service members who have been listed as missing in action,” Haslam said. “Bailey Keeton, Jr. answered the call to serve his country and we are grateful that his family will finally have the closure of laying him to rest in his home state.”