BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Friday was the day the family of Cpl. Roy Fink never thought would come, the day the Buffalo native would finally be honored for this ultimate sacrifice, and officially laid to rest close to 66 years after his death.
Fink left Buffalo in the winter of 1950.
He was 20 years old, and had returned for only a short while to visit with family before being deployed to fight with the U.S. Army in North Korea.
The family never saw or heard from him again — and he was considered MIA, until his remains were identified nine weeks ago…66 years after his death.
“Our families told us that our uncle was the unknown soldier,” said Paul DuFrain, Fink’s nephew and oldest living relative. “And that’s what we believed, our uncle was the unknown soldier.”
Fink died in a bloody barrage with the Chinese on the frozen Chosin Reservoir in North Korea — where his remains would lie until they were recovered in 2001.
It would take another 15 years to confirm his identify, notify his family and be laid to rest at the fallen veteran section of Forest Lawn Cemetery, full military honors, lifetimes of respect.
“Just like World War I vets, they’re gone, World War II vets are dying, thousands a day, Korea is coming next,” said Army Sgt.1st Class Ethan James Unterweger, a casualty assistance officer. “We’re going to lose those stories if they’re all gone.
“Him being Buffalo born and raised in Buffalo, the city pulling behind us, it was really inspirational,” he added.
Jeff Schuler knows a thing or two about gratitude. Next month will be his 40th year to play Santa Claus to welcome home the troops at Buffalo airport.
“No relation. I’m just an American citizen paying my respects to my heroes,” Schuler said. “He was a POW or MIA, and it’s just, the family’s at ease and hopefully there’s other families that get to experience that.”
Ken Stewart, of Williamsville, was wounded in Korea in 1952. He and Fink never met. But he knew him well.
“I was glad to come down and say goodbye to someone I never met, even though we both served in the same war,” Stewart said. “It’s part of a closure I think we all seek.”