When we meet a veteran of the Korean War, we shake his hand, thank him for what he did and tell him that he and the others are by no means forgotten — even though their war is sometimes referred to as “The Forgotten War.”
We also tell him that because of what he and the others did, a small country on the other side of the world is free and prosperous, while its neighbor to the north is oppressed and enslaved, and its people are impoverished and hungry.
This is the message we wish we could give to James R. Hare, but that will not be possible.
Former U.S. Army Cpl. Hare will be laid to rest this afternoon, having come home from an absence that lasted more than 60 years.
Hare was captured by the North Koreans in February 1951 and died of starvation in a Prisoner of War camp less than three months later. His remains were identified only recently and returned to Cumberland and his family.
Most certainly, he has never been forgotten.
“There are just eight of us left,” said his brother, Stanley Hare, “but we have pulled together and we believe it is a blessing that we will be able to lay James to rest. It is a great honor to have this on my watch and be a part of this closure for my family.”
Only those who have faced an ordeal similar to that of the Hare family can understand its nature, and only those whose ordeal has come to a similar end can understand the relief it brings.
Several years ago, a woman who lives in Cumberland received word that the remains of her brother had been identified and were being returned — Calvin Coolidge “Grady” Cooke, who had been Missing In Action since the Vietnam War. She said the outpouring of support she received from area veterans and others meant a world of difference to her and her family.
It is estimated that more than 1 million American service members are still MIA and, since the start of World War II, about 142,000 Americans have been Prisoners Of War. A number of them still live in our area. Of those POWs, about 17,000 died in enemy captivity.
America never stops looking for those who are missing and, like Hare and Cooke, some are occasionally found and brought home. Remains of Civil War soldiers have been found in recent years and, even though they may never be identified, they are returned to their home states and interred with full military honors; Union or Confederate, it makes no difference.
James Hare’s younger brother, John Hare, was Killed In Action during the Vietnam War.
We will continue to remember both of them with gratitude. Considering what they and all of the others did for us, it’s the least we can do.