FAYETTEVILLE — A Korean War soldier who went missing 62 years ago has been buried with full military honors in a North Carolina veterans cemetery, after his remains were finally identified.
Army Pfc. James Curtis Mullins was buried in Sandhills State Veterans Cemetery in Spring Lake. It was the third burial of his remains.
His older brother, Clayton Mullins, said Friday's service brought closure.
"It brings closure to a lot of questions I had in my mind," he said. "Where he was at. What could possibly have happened to him. It made me happy that they finally identified him, and it made me sad in another way."
James Mullins was 18 when he headed for South Korea at the onset of the Korean War in June 1950. He went missing a month later, when his unit was overrun and scattered near the village of Yugong-ni.
Remains of nine U.S. soldiers were recovered from the battlefield. Only one could not be identified — now known to be Mullins'. All nine were buried in South Korea.
The bodies were exhumed a year later. Mullins' remains were recorded as X-14 and sent to the Army's identification unit in Japan for analysis. Still unidentifiable, the remains were transferred to Hawaii and reburied in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.
They were exhumed again this year and identified through radiography, dental records and other evidence.
Mullins was presumed dead on Dec. 31, 1953. Records show that Army units had searched the battlefield and surrounding areas again in 1952.
Clayton Mullins, a retired master sergeant with Fort Bragg's 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, said their father never stopped hoping his little brother survived.
When he encouraged his father to think of other things, he responded, "It's just hard to do. You can't think of nothing but where he's at, what he's doing."
"He had hopes that he was just lost out there. He kept hoping until he left here."
He said he last saw his younger brother in boot camp at Fort Jackson, S.C.
The military counts 7,940 troops still unaccounted for from the Korean War. Of those, 196 are from North Carolina.
Technology advances are allowing more remains to be identified — 39 in 2011, and 31 so far this year, said Maj. Carie A. Parker, a spokeswoman for the Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office.