Welcome Home, Pfc James Constant

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It’s only fitting that a soldier listed as missing in action from the Korean War for nearly sixty years will finally return home this Memorial Day weekend.

It has been a long, convoluted trip but finally, 63 years after he was killed in action during the Korean War, an American soldier returns to the Indiana soil.

Pfc. James L. Constant, Beech Grove, was 19 when he died while defending an area near Changnyong, in what is now South Korea.

His funeral is Saturday at 1 p.m. at Beech Grove High School, 5335 Hornet Drive, with visitation from 11 a.m. Burial will be in New Crown Cemetery. The public is welcome.

Constant was killed Sept. 8, 1950. His body was recovered almost immediately. But it wasn’t recognizable. The remains were buried in a cemetery in Miryang, South Korea. Later, they were transferred to the United Nations Cemetery in Tanggok. Then they were moved yet again, to the U.S. Army’s Central Identification Unit in Kokura, Japan, for laboratory analysis.

After the lab failed to make positive identification, Constant’s remains were transferred to Hawaii, where they were interred with many other unidentified Korean War casualties in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, known as the Punchbowl.

Following advances in lab analysis techniques, such as the advent of DNA testing, another attempt at identification was made in 2012. The attempt succeeded. Scientists from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, or JPAC, determined the remains were Constant’s.

Remains of hundreds of deceased soldiers are recovered each year, from Korea, Vietnam, even Europe, left from World War II. Between 80 and 100 are identified each year.

Constant is survived by his two sisters, Betty Kelley and Margaret Rigdon, and by many nieces and nephews. They declined to comment for this story. He was preceded in death by his parents, William Thomas and Jessie “Lula” Constant, five brothers and two sisters.

One more American has made the final trip home from a forgotten war.

Families with loved ones still missing from the Korean War who have read War Remains have told me that my story about Bobby Washkowiak could have been the story about their father, brother, or uncle who never came home from the conflict. That is such an honor for me when someone tells me how much my story has resonated in their lives and how it has helped them.

Welcome Home, Pfc Constant.

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