By Franklin Fisher (Benning)November 9, 2018
FORT BENNING, Ga. (Nov. 9, 2018) - An American Soldier whose remains could not be matched with a name for nearly seven decades after his death in the Korean War, was borne to his grave here with meticulous dignity Nov. 3 by white-gloved Soldiers of the same regiment he'd served with at his death in 1950.
Sgt. 1st Class James Silas Streetman Jr. was killed in action July 1950 at age 20 while serving with Company B, 1st Battalion, 19th Infantry Regiment, then part of the 24th Infantry Division. He died in the division's desperate fight against a much larger North Korean forces near Taejon (now Daejon), South Korea. He was born and raised in Columbus, Georgia, was known to his family as "Junior" and to fellow-Soldiers as "Jimmy."
Identification of his remains and return to the United States fulfills decades of longing, said one of his sisters, Sharon Streetman Ray, 75. She was five years old when she last saw her brother and seven when he was killed.
"Now I have him home," she told reporters at the cemetery. "It was a long 68 years for all of us. And we missed him very much. I can't imagine what my life would have been like growing up with him. I think it would be much better. He was a wonderful person. Very personable, very caring, and he was a very good Soldier."
In the summer of 1950, Streetman's mother received a telegram saying her son had been killed in action, Ray said. Remains that later proved those of Streetman were sent in 1956 from Korea to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, still unidentified. There they were listed as "Unknown X-162," she said.
Through the years his family had hoped against hope that his remains would someday be identified and returned to Georgia. In 1994, on the 44th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War, Fort Benning held at the family's request a memorial service at the Main Post Cemetery. A headstone bearing his name was laid, though, with no remains to bury, no grave was dug. In 2000, Ray and her mother gave the Army DNA samples in hopes it might lead to identification.
Years passed. Then, one morning this September, the phone rang in Ray's Columbus home. She was not yet fully awake.
It was the U.S. Army at Fort Knox, Kentucky.
"And he said 'I want to tell you your brother's remains have been identified,'" said Ray. "And I said, 'What?! What?!' That woke me up really quick."
The break came through DNA and chest and dental X-rays, Ray said the Army told her.
"And I was so excited...And I love having him in Georgia dirt," she said. "He was born here, he needed to come back here."
The day of Streetman's burial began with a 1 p.m. funeral service at Fort Benning's Infantry Chapel and was followed by an interment ceremony at the Main Post Cemetery.
Under bright, nearly cloudless blue skies and with few sounds but the occasional chirping of birds, a funeral procession pulled up outside the chapel, a white Georgian Revival-style structure with a 100-foot steeple. Inside a black hearse lay a silver metal casket, draped with an American flag, containing Streetman's remains. About 70 or so people, including many of Streetman's relatives, stood silent in the Saturday heat. Among them were military veterans and a group of motorcyclists belonging to the Patriot Guard Riders, a private, civilian organization that attends funerals of U.S. service members and first responders. They now took up positions along the walkway to the chapel and stood at attention, each holding an American flag.
Pallbearers of the 19th Infantry Regiment's 1st Battalion, Company B, wearing black berets, white gloves, blue trousers and dark blue dress coats, took firm hold of the casket and, stepping in unison, conveyed it to the chapel. Their footfall made a single tramping sound at each step along the walkway.
Inside the red-carpeted, white-walled chapel, relatives and others took their seats in white pews trimmed with brown. Also seated were Soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 19th Infantry Regiment.
The service began with brief welcoming remarks by Capt. Joel Kelley, the 1st Battalion's chaplain.
"Today we put to final rest one of our own nation's heroes," said Kelley. "It's been a long journey for Jimmy, but finally he's come home."
In a eulogy, Kelley said Streetman loved baseball and spending time in the woods, that his family described him as "a sweet guy" and one who was a knowledgeable and athletic noncommissioned officer.
Noting that 68 years had passed since Streetman died in action, Kelley said that "now," his unit "can put him to rest. In fact, the pallbearers that you see today are the same B Company that Jimmy was in all those years ago...and we honor him for laying down his life," Kelley said.
The service continued with the commanding officer of the 19th Infantry Regiment's 1st Battalion, Lt. Col. Spencer Wallace, presenting Streetman's awards to his family.
They included the Combat Infantryman Badge "for participation in ground combat action having been personally present and under hostile enemy fire during combat operations in Korea on 16 July 1950," Wallace said.
Also awarded was the Good Conduct Medal "for his exemplary conduct, efficiency and fidelity in service to the 19th Infantry Regiment," he said.
In addition, said Wallace, "two Purple Hearts are awarded...for wounds received in action on 16 July 1950 and 22 July 1950."
Streetman's casket was then moved to the cemetery, where a low red-brick wall and iron gate enclose row on row of white headstones and where a newly dug grave lay ready for Streetman's remains.
The pallbearers bore the casket to a metal-roofed, open air pavilion where Family members were seated.
A firing party stood some yards from the pavilion and at 1:46 p.m., at a quiet command, fired three volleys in quick succession, the sharp crack of the M-4 rifles shattering the stillness. One of Streetman's sisters started as the first volley split the air.
A bugler sounded "Taps," the command "Order Arms" was heard, and at 1:48 p.m., a bagpiper in green-kilted Highland dress played "Going Home."
The pallbearers began the solemn process of folding the flag, with the slow, deliberate movements, called for by military tradition and meant to reflect the solemn dignity accorded to the dead.
With the flag now in a three-corner fold, one of the pallbearers, a sergeant first class, passed it carefully to the casket detail officer-in-charge, Capt. Chuck Squires, commander of 1st Battalion's Company B, then gave Squires a nine-second salute, the type typically used in rendering military honors. Squires in turn handed the flag to the commander of the 198th Infantry Brigade, of which the 19th Infantry Regiment is a part, Col. William D. Voorhies, and gave Voorhies the nine-second salute. Voorhies knelt and handed the flag to Ray, a short, white-haired woman in a maroon dress.
Then, at 1:52 p.m., the piper played "Amazing Grace," and the service ended moments later.
If the return of Streetman's remains was a profound event for his family, it was also of importance to his former battalion, and perhaps most especially to Company B, Wallace said after the ceremony.
"It sort of closes the circle, to have him serve as part of the regiment, in that company, and this company available to provide honors," said Wallace.
"It was an incredible honor, and they were all in," Wallace said of Company B. "The Company Commander and First Sergeant both said, 'Sir, we want this mission. This is an incredible honor.' And more importantly, I think I saw it manifested in the attention to detail that they provided in every aspect of the rehearsals - firing party, the pallbearers, folding the flag - they put the extra effort in to make sure that this honored him."
The day's ceremonies were a deep satisfaction to Ray.
"I didn't know if I would actually live to see this day but I wanted it so bad," Ray said. "And I wanted him to have all the recognition that he deserved. And he has had it. He has had it."