The remains of an Army medic missing in action and declared dead during the Korean War finally returned home to Western Massachusetts on Wednesday.
Hundreds of people, from school children to seniors, lined a procession waving American flags as a motorcade escorting the remains of Cpl. Jules Hauterman Jr. arrived in Holyoke after nearly seven decades.
Among the bystanders were Debbie Gazda and her 81-year-old mother. Gazda, whose husband also served in Korea, said she had to come out to welcome home one of Holyoke's own.
"I hear he doesn't have much family left, so we're here to just honor him, you know it's a good thing to do," she said. "It shows the family that, yes, there are still people that care about him even though it took them that long to bring him back home."
Hauterman joined the Army after graduating from Holyoke High. A medic attached to the 31st Regimental Combat Team, Hauterman was 19 years old when he was reported missing in December 1950 during fierce fighting against Chinese forces at the Chosin Reservoir, or Changjin in Korean.
Remains recovered in 1954 and buried the following year in Hawaii were re-examined last year and determined to be those of Hauterman.
Francisco Ureña, secretary of the Massachusetts Department of Veterans' Services, said 198 Korean War and 38 Vietnam-era veterans from the state remain unaccounted for. But he said DNA has greatly advanced the work of finally identifying missing service members.
"In Hawaii, there is a laboratory that every month processes one or two remains, possibly identifying them and repatriating them to their hometown, to have the sense of homecoming that Jules Hauterman had here in Holyoke," Ureña said.
That sense of homecoming couldn't come soon enough for Hauterman's cousin, Robert Whelihan, who said he never gave up hope. He later became a military medic like his cousin.
Growing up, Whelihan lived across the hall from Hauterman in a third-floor apartment and was just nine when he last saw him.
"We were really close," Whelihan said. "And the day he left I remember he called me over -- banged on the wall -- and I come over and he was leaving. And he said, 'Bobby, I gotta go now.' And I said, 'OK, you're going back to the Army?' He said, 'Yeah.' And I said, 'Well, you just come back safe to me.' He gave me a hug and a kiss and out the door he went. Never saw him again -- until today."
"I have no words for it. And if I did, I wouldn't be able to say them," Whelihan said of his cousin's return, choking up. "So, fills a big gap. Brings a lot of closure."
A wake for Jules Hauterman takes place Thursday afternoon, with a funeral mass Friday. And in accordance with his family's wishes, Hauterman will laid to rest with full military honors at St. Jerome Cemetery, where his mother, father and sister are buried, less than half a mile away from the home where he grew up.