Remains of Korean War prisoner of war come home

Area residents wait for the funeral procession to start Saturday morning. Sentinel photo/Dixie Pettit
Area residents wait for the funeral procession to start Saturday morning. Sentinel photo/Dixie Pettit

By Maureen Robertson

Holding U.S. flags and standing along Main Street on a crisp Saturday morning, area residents ranging from children to senior citizens waited for the procession that would carry the remains of Cpl. Eugene “Mackie” Morelli from Bonham Brothers & Stewart Mortuary on 12th Street to his burial place in the Bloomdale/Mesa Chiquita Cemetery on the Mesa Grande Indian Reservation.

They waited for up to three and a half hours. Some arrived early, about 8 a.m. on Nov. 5. Others were there at the designated time of 8:30 a.m.

Due to the late arrival of a family member, the funeral procession did not make its way up Ramona’s Main Street toward Santa Ysabel until just before 10:30 a.m. It gave those who waited time to talk and to think of Cpl. Morelli and of others who have or are serving the country.

Morelli, whose obituary was published in the Oct. 27 issue of the

Ramona Sentinel

, was born on the Mesa Grande Indian Reservation to Max Morelli and Edith Ponchetti on Aug. 22, 1929.

He died a prisoner of war in North Korea in 1951 and was buried there.

Morelli was listed as missing in action after a battle with Chinese soldiers on Feb. 13, 1951, near Hoengson, Republic of Korea, said Laura Herzog of the “Honoring Our Fallen” organization. He was attached to the 15th Field Artillery Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division.

In 1953, after the war’s conclusion and the exchange of prisoners of war, a returned U.S. soldier reported that Morelli had died in captivity due to malnutrition, reported the Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office.

Between 1991 and 1994, North Korea gave the United States 208 boxes of remains believed to contain the remains of 200 to 400 U.S. servicemen, and documents indicated that some of the remains were recovered near where Morelli was held as a prisoner of war, according to the Department of Defense.

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The funeral procession for Cpl. Eugene “Mackie” Morelli heads toward Mesa Grande.Sentinel photo/Dixie Pettit

Scientists from the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used dental records and mitochondrial DNA that matched that of Morelli’s niece in the identification, the department reported.

Ramona Rotary Club placed U.S. flags along Main Street before the funeral procession.

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Friends and family wait at Bonham Brothers and Stewart Mortuary for the funeral procession to begin. Sentinel photo/Dixie Pettit

A community lunch in Mesa Grande Tribal Hall was held after the service.

City News Service contributed to this report.

   
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