By Wade Coggeshall
INDIANAPOLIS — Words like "relief" and "closure" were frequently used Tuesday morning at Indianapolis International Airport, as a group of American Legion members and relatives of Corporal Robert Gene Archer braved chilly conditions to see his remains brought home.
Archer, a native of Brazil, was just 17 when he enlisted at the Army's Danville office. He served as a light truck driver and infantryman with the Headquarters Company - 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division - in the Korean War.
Archer was taken prisoner by the Communist Chinese-North Koreans on Dec. 2, 1950. He died on or about Feb. 28, 1951, at the age of 22, presumably of starvation.
His parents, George and Alice, are now deceased, as are his brothers, Arthur and Norman, and sisters Beulah Stultz, Audrey Morland, Ruth Parr, and Olive May Tribble. Left are some extended family members, a niece in Georgia, and a nephew, James Archer of Brazil.
James' father and sister had sent a blood sample of Archer's to the Army in the early 2000s. In December he got a phone call that they had found a match.
"They need to come home," James said of this country's prisoners of war. "This is a great thing they're doing."
Archer's remains landed around noon at the airport. A police escort from Archer's native Clay County, as well as Army representatives, were there to take them to Brazil.
Robert Hulley, Archer's cousin from Zionsville, was impressed with the number of people who turned out.
"Members of the American Legion and military veterans really stick together," he said.
He was relieved when he heard that Archer's remains had been found, but there's still an air of sadness to it for him.
"There are still so many that are missing," Hulley said.
Like him, James never got to meet Archer.
"By the time I was born, he was already in the service," he said.
James, a member of the American Legion Post 118 in Danville, regards his uncle as a hero.
"He was a POW," he said. "I just regret it took 60 years to find his body and get it back."
Services for Archer are scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at French Funeral Home at Brazil. He'll be buried with full military honors provided by members of the U.S. Army in Summit Lawn Cemetery.
"It will be a great day," James said.
Visitation is from noon to 8 p.m. Friday at the funeral home. Online condolences may be sent to FrenchFuneralHome.com.