By Tim Ghianni
NASHVILLE, Tenn, Jan 4 (Reuters) - A U.S. soldier who left his family farm in Tennessee to volunteer for the Korean War is finally coming home more than six decades later to be buried next to his mother and father, authorities said on Friday.
With the help of DNA samples provided by his siblings in 2004, the U.S. military identified remains recovered in North Korea as Private First Class Glenn Schoenmann, who was 20 when he died in December 1950.
Schoenmann was among the nearly 8,000 U.S. troops unaccounted for from the Korean War, which lasted from 1950 until 1953. His remains are due to be brought back to Tennessee's Grundy County on Jan. 10 and he will be buried after a memorial service two days later.
Schoenmann died just weeks after he was taken prisoner during the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir, according to the Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs.
His four surviving siblings never had the opportunity for closure until they were notified by military officials in December that his remains had been identified. It was an occasion for tears, said his brother Raymond Schoenmann, 80, who still lives in rural Grundy County, about 100 miles (160 km) southeast of Nashville.
"It was just like it actually just happened," said Schoenmann. His brother Ernest, an Illinois resident who was one of the siblings who provided the DNA samples, told him the news.
"My brother said he turned away and had to cry when he found out," Raymond Schoenmann said. "I broke into tears when he told me."
Schoenmann said the family never gave up hope that Glenn's remains would be found, especially after the U.S. government took the DNA samples eight years ago as part of an effort to identify remains buried at POW camps in North Korea during the war.
U.S. officials believe major concentrations of remains are located at POW camp burial sites and the Chosin Reservoir area in North Korea.
Joint recovery efforts to recover soldiers' remains halted in 2005 after the United States cited the uncertain environment created by North Korea's nuclear program.
'I AIN'T GOING BACK'
Raymond was two years younger than his brother, "but we grew up like twins. We even went to school together. He started a year before me, but he didn't like it. He told my mom and dad 'I ain't going back until Ray starts.' We went all the way through the ninth grade of high school together, then he volunteered and went into the military."
Raymond Schoenmann recalled when the ominous wartime telegram was delivered to the family's farmhouse.
"I was still at home and I was over at the barn and I seen the car and knew something was up. I went up to the house and Mom told me she got the telegram that he was missing in action," Schoenmann said. "And she was tore up so bad that I just turned and went back to the barn by myself to cry."
He volunteered for the Navy the next year.
"It was pretty hard to leave Mom and Dad after losing a son, but I wanted to get my time over," Raymond Schoenmann said. "I didn't want no part of the Army because it was so quick (between the time) he was in boot camp and he died in Korea."
Raymond Schoenmann said he used his Navy liberty time to wander around Korea looking for his big brother. "I thought he might run up on me if he was still alive."
The family had talked in recent years about holding a memorial service and installing a marker over an empty grave near the graves of his parents and grandparents at Brown's Chapel Cemetery near the city of Palmer where he was born.
Instead, Glenn Schoenmann will be buried there on Jan. 12, his remains placed in a uniform inside the casket.
"We always were a close family," Raymond Schoenmann said, adding that he feels much better that his brother's remains will be returning to Tennessee.
Schoenmann said he always thought of his brother as "a war hero, big time. And more so lately."
"He died for his country," Schoenmann said. (Reporting by Tim Ghianni; Editing by Mary Wisniewski)