Remains of Korean War veteran returned to family after being left on Soldotna doorstep

Outside the Gates
Outside the Gates
Published: Oct. 5, 2023 at 6:15 PM AKDT|Updated: Oct. 5, 2023 at 6:23 PM AKDT
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SOLDOTNA, Alaska (KTUU) - When the cremated remains of a Korean War veteran showed up at the steps of an AMVETS post on the Kenai Peninsula, Soldotna resident Jacquie Lane made it her mission to find his family and return him home.

Her efforts proved to be more difficult than expected.

“I had exhausted all of my options to try and find his family — social media, obituaries, things like that,” Lane said.

Ultimately, an official at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson put Lane in touch with Alaska Warrior Partnership and Butch Bologna, founder of the S.O.L.V.E. Alaska group — which stands for Serving Our Loved Veterans Everyday — and the team was able to track down the soldier’s family in Arkansas.

As it turns out, the veteran had been missing for nearly six years.

“In 2017 his son was on the Kenai Peninsula in an RV with his father’s cremated remains, and that RV was stolen,” Bologna said. “Those remains have been missing ever since 2017.”

Lane said that when she contacted the veteran’s son to tell him that the remains showed up at the local AMVETS, he was understandably emotional.

“He didn’t think they were ever going to see [him] again,” Lane said. “So I assured him that we had [him] and that we were going to do everything we could to get him home.”

Before they sent the soldier to be reunited with his family, however, it was important to Lane and Bologna that the veteran be given an honorable sendoff, so they organized a ceremony at the Soldotna Post Office on Sept. 19.

“Our soldiers, our veterans deserve more than just to be put into a box and sent in the mail somewhere,” Bologna said.

Dozens of people attended, as Bologna carried a framed photo of the veteran into the office, followed by Lane holding the postal box that carried his ashes and burial flag. Military veterans saluted the soldier as he made his way down the sidewalk, while civilians observed silently.

According to Bologna, a VFW in Arkansas would be waiting to receive the soldier and return his remains to his family.

“How and why at this time someone decided to put those remains at the hall doorstep in the middle of the night, we don’t know,” Bologna said.

Now, six years after his journey began, the veteran is finally ready to rest.

“[He] can now go home,” Bologna said. “Return to Arkansas where he belongs and be able to rest in peace.”