|Updated: 5/12/2012 5:15 pm
||Published: 5/12/2012 5:04 pm
POLK COUNTY, AR - Josie Tibbitts, today laid to rest the father she never knew. Relatives came from across the country for the Saturday funeral service in Polk County, followed by interment at Mt. Gilead Cemetery. Gov. Mike Beebe ordered flags to be flown at half-staff on Saturday.
Master Sgt. Elwood Green, was captured in 1950 in North Korea and died at age 33 on Feb. 18, 1951, in a prisoner of war camp. Some of his remains were recovered in 2005 by a team from the Army and North Korea.
The family was notified in February that the remains were positively identified through a DNA comparison with Green's brother, Jeffery. That ended a 61-year-old mystery of what became of Green at the prison camp known as Death Valley.
Green was born in Norman, where he went to high school, and had worked in the family's west Arkansas sawmill. During World War II, he fought in the North Africa and Italy campaigns. Former POWs returning from Korea in 1953 reported that Green died from malnutrition.
The news from Green's fellow soldiers gave the family an answer, and the return of his remains brought closure, relatives said.
"We were told we would never, ever have any remains from my father back," Tibbitts said. "So this day is miraculous, it's sweet, it's bittersweet. Something my Aunt Joyce and Uncle Jeff have waited for for ages. It means I have a daddy now that I never had."
Tibbitts said the remains of her mother, who died 22 years ago, were placed in her father's casket.
Tibbitts got to know her father through stories told by her mother and other relatives.
"He was a very honorable man, very loyal, devoted to his country, he was a card, a tease, a practical joker. ... Grandpa owned a sawmill, all the boys worked in the sawmill. My daddy had sawdust in his blood and that explains why I love to work with wood and do carpentry, that explains why my son is such a big tease," she said.
Tibbitts said she has photos of her father on the walls of her Colorado home, one from when he enlisted at age 18 and a wedding portrait of her parents.
"I know of him, I know about him," she said. "Now I actually have something, I have him here."
Margaret McMillian, a niece of Green's, said her uncle's story plays a big role in the family. Ten of Green's 11 siblings lived to adulthood, and seven died without knowing what happened to their brother.
"It brings closure and peace," McMillan said.
Green fought with Company E, 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division. He and other soldiers were captured during a battle at Samso-ri on Nov. 28, 1950.