Recognizing Sacrifice

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends,”
the book of John tells us.  There are many professions that include in their description the possibility that their duties might place the person in harm’s way while serving others. Some we see regularly are police and firefighters. I have known police officers who have died in the line of duty and firefighters injured. We as a nation saw hundreds who were impacted 20 years ago in New York following the attack on 9/11.
This week in my hometown of Ringgold, Ga. we shared the unique opportunity to welcome home the remains of one of our hometown heroes from 71 years ago in Korea – Cpl. Henry Lewis Helms. Cpl. Helms and his family farmed south of the rural Georgia town when he volunteered for service during WWII. He would return to the service again in the late forties landing in Korea and in December 1950 he was reported by telegram to his folks that he was Missing in Action.
Family members remembered how his story and photos remained part of their lives as their late grandmother continued to wonder what became of her son. She would never learn his fate, but her daughter Evelyn Snyder of Ringgold, who was seven when he went missing was able to receive closure on her behalf, now as the survivor among her siblings.
Helms was a member of Company D, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division. He was reported missing in action on Dec. 2, 1950, when his unit was attacked by enemy forces near the Chosin Reservoir, North Korea. Following the battle, his remains could not be recovered.
On July 27, 2018, following the summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un in June 2018, North Korea turned over 55 boxes, purported to contain the remains of American service members killed during the Korean War. The remains arrived at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii on Aug. 1, 2018, and were subsequently accessioned into the DPAA laboratory for identification.
To identify Helms’ remains, scientists from DPAA used anthropological analysis, as well as circumstantial evidence. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), Y chromosome (Y-STR), and autosomal DNA (auSTR) analysis.
Several of Helms’ relatives contributed DNA for review to the identification process.
Helms’ name is recorded on the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, along with the others who are still missing from the Korean War. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for. He is also included on the Catoosa County Military Heroes War Memorial.
His sister Evelyn rode to Atlanta with Wilson Funeral Home personnel to bring her brother home on his final leg of the journey and on Saturday, May 22, the city came together to support his sister, nieces and nephews and cousins as they eulogized his sacrifice with a funeral and an interment in the city’s Anderson Memorial Gardens. The chapel was full, neighbors lined the procession route as Evelyn once again sat down in the passenger seat of the antique hearse that carried him.
The town gathered around the family in the cemetery as the military saluted his service with rifle fire, taps and the ceremonial folding and presentation of the coffin flag and musically bagpipes played “Amazing Grace.”
Evelyn shared that she was overwhelmed by the outpouring of love.
The work of local officials including Catoosa County Chairman Steven Henry brought together an amazing community salute which included honors by fire, police, emergency, veterans, motorcycle groups, and scouts.
There were many elements that helped to reflect our community’s respect for this family in recognition of Cpl. Helms sacrifice given for us. Saying that I was happy to see it would be an understatement. Seventy-one years is a long time, but I am thankful that the hearts of our town never forgot what it means for one of our sons to leave to serve our country and not return. Well, now Cpl. Helms did return and we were there for him, because he was in Korea for us.