Norvin Brockett’s family knows he died 70 years ago on a Korean War battlefield, but they never knew what happened to his remains.
Brockett, an 18-year-old Army corporal from Powell Butte, was reported missing in action Dec. 6, 1950, after his unit was attacked near the Chosin Reservoir, North Korea. His remains were never found, and he was never reported as a prisoner of war. The U.S. Army declared Brockett deceased in 1953.
Since then, his family has lived with the knowledge that closure may never come.
But that changed when his remains were accounted for on Aug. 5.
“The thought was that he was dead, but the Army hadn’t recovered his remains,” said Katherine Gandara, Brockett’s niece who lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. “We really didn’t know anything else. This was the first real confirmation we ever had.”
Gandara, 58, a U.S. Air Force officer who now works in Air Force public affairs, said her uncle’s unclear fate was difficult for her father, Melvin Brockett. He was the second oldest of four brothers, and Norvin Brockett was the youngest.
Melvin Brockett, an Army veteran from Redmond who served during the Korean War, was dedicated to finding his brother’s remains. He died in October 2008 at 81 without fulfilling that goal.
Gandara thought of her father when she met with Army officials last month to receive an official briefing that detailed what the Army believes happened to her uncle.
“I really felt it was bittersweet when I received the brief from the Army,” Gandara said. “I was happy to hear the truth, but I wish my dad could have been there. I knew he carried that burden his entire life.”
Norvin Brockett’s remains were among 55 boxes returned from North Korea to the United States during a summit in July 2018. The boxes of remains were sent to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii on Aug. 1.
Scientists from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency used DNA technology to successfully identify Brockett’s remains on Aug. 5.
Today, 7,607 Americans soldiers remain missing from the Korean War. Oregon still has 56 Korean War veterans missing in action, according to the Bend Heroes Foundation.
Brockett, who attended Crook County High School before enlisting in the Army at 17, will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. A ceremony is tentatively scheduled for next summer, Gandara said.
The ceremony will allow Brockett’s friends and family to finally pay their respects 70 years later.
Because of Brockett’s strong desire to serve his country, it is fitting for him to be buried among other military veterans, Gandara said.
“The thing about Norvin that really stuck out to me was when he joined the Army he was 17 years old,” Gandara said. “He wanted so badly to serve that his parents had to sign the paperwork to allow him to join.”
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