BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Cpl. Roy C. Fink left Buffalo in 1950, joining the U.S. Army and other military branches in what would be a deadly exchange in North Korea.
He was 20.
His family would never hear from him again, and they never received the confirmation that he’d been killed on that battlefield, until nine weeks ago — when the dots were connected across thousands of miles and 66 years.
“It’s just incredible,” said Fink’s nephew, Clifford Anderson. “We never thought we’d hear anything about him ever again. But here it is.”
After close to seven decades Fink found his way home, arriving Wednesday afternoon to full military honors.
It’s now as it should be for Fink’s family, a rightful reception for an American hero.
“It’s a mixed emotion between condolences and happiness,” said nephew Paul DeFrain. “We’re happy that Uncle Roy is back.”
DeFrain is Fink’s oldest living relative. He provided the DNA that eventually linked Department of Defense researchers with his hometown.
Fink left the Queen City in 1950, coming home on leave for a few weeks before being deployed to fight in North Korea.
He and thousands of other U.S. troops fought at the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea.
In the freezing wind and snow, they were surrounded and outnumbered by Chinese troops. Most U.S. troops didn’t return. It’s believed thousands still remain on that battlefield, and thousands more unidentified.
“The dictatorship in North Korea at this time, when the thoughts about my uncle would have come along in the last year or two, I never thought within my lifetime that we would find him,” DeFrain said.
Through an international agreement in 1994, Department of Defense researchers two years later rekindled the operation to recover remains at Chosin Reservoir. Fink’s remains were returned to U.S. soil in 2001. The program has been stalled since 2012 because the North Korean administration refuses to accept the efforts.
This summer, DeFrain was asked to send a sample of his DNA to DoD researchers. The match was confirmed about nine weeks ago.
In addition to family and friends, dozens of members of the Patriot Guard Riders showed up to the airport to pay tribute.
“It’s absolutely an honor, I mean we’re bringing one of our kids home,” said Bob Woodward, the ride captain of the Patriot Guard Riders. “A 19-year-old kid who died in Korea, never got a chance to experience Western New York.
“He was missing in action for 66 years,” he added. “We got him home. That’s what it means to us.”
For that an so much more, the family is thankful for a day, they never thought they’d witness.
“Our families told us that our uncle was the unknown soldier,” DeFrain said. “And that’s what we believed, our uncle was the unknown soldier.”
Fink’s visitation is scheduled for Thursday. He will be finally laid to rest on Friday at Forest Lawn Cemetery with full military honors.