When MAJ Jason “Jay” Cross of Fort Detrick, Md., assumed the role of Casualty Assistance Officer in Nov. 2019, he never anticipated that it would end up being the highlight of his 17 years in the Army.
“What I had heard from others was that it’s a tough job,” said Cross, who serves as Chief of Operations at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases. “This time, though, the situation was a little bit different.”
Cross’s mission was to assist the homecoming of a Korean War Soldier, CPL Jack D. Blosser, who had been missing in action since 1950. Known as “Jackey” to his family and friends, Blosser was one of 14 children who grew up in Parsons, W. Va. He entered the U.S. Army in Sept. 1948 and served with Company D, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division. Two years later, at the age of 21, he was presumed killed in action during a battle at the Chosin Reservoir. His body was never found.
For decades, Blosser’s relatives grieved without ever knowing what had happened. In 1999, his niece and other family members began to search for information—reading about the war, attending POW/MIA conferences, and reaching out to survivors who had served with Blosser. Their lucky break came in 2018, when North Korea turned over 55 boxes containing the remains of U.S. Service Members. A year later, Blosser’s family was notified that their Soldier was among them. At long last, Jackey was coming home.
Cross and two representatives from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency met with Blosser’s family in Dec. 2019. The DPAA officials walked them through the history of the battle and the days leading up to Blosser’s death, recreating events as best they could. They also explained the process of DNA testing used to identify the remains—from a more general analysis to very specific familial testing, aided by a blood sample provided years earlier by Jackey’s sister, Bonnie Shingleton.
Over the next several months, Cross supported Blosser’s family members to help them navigate the process of planning an Army funeral. He also had the honor of escorting them to Pittsburgh International Airport, where Jackey’s casket arrived on the evening of July 30, 2020. The 86-year-old Shingleton—the only remaining sibling of the 14—was there to welcome her brother home. She was just 13 when he left for the Army and 16 when they received word that he had likely been killed in action.
Shingleton was touched and overwhelmed by the scene at the airport. American Airlines had granted them access to the flight line, so Blosser’s family, along with Cross and the military honor guard, were able to be on the tarmac to meet the plane. A police escort was arranged to control traffic from the airport to the church in Grafton, W. Va., where Jackey’s funeral service was held.
In addition, Cross had been contacted by the American Legion Patriot Guard Riders, a volunteer organization that provides motorcycle escorts to the funeral services of fallen American heroes.
“The ride captain in Pennsylvania knew exactly where we needed to go,” said Cross. “We were met by about 75 motorcycles, riding two by two, escorting the hearse, the family vehicle and the honor guard. When we got to the state line, some additional riders from West Virginia joined us.”
After the funeral, the honor guard presented Shingleton with an American flag and a shadow box containing her brother’s medals, including a Purple Heart. Then the main thoroughfares were closed, and despite the rain, the town of Grafton came out and lined the streets, waving flags as the funeral procession went from the church to the West Virginia National Cemetery.
“It was the culmination of a 20-year search for a man who died 70 years ago,” said Cross, “but you would never know how long ago it happened by the outpouring of support that we received. It made this sad occasion almost feel more like a celebration.”
As a final gesture of support to the family, Cross contacted 7th Infantry Division headquarters at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., to tell them the story of CPL Jackey Blosser. Their Commanding General, MG Xavier Brunson, and CSM Robin Bolmer held a ceremony Aug. 3 inducting Blosser into the prestigious Order of the Bayonet. This honor is reserved for members of the 7th Infantry Division who display personal performance of duties deemed by a commander to be "above and beyond the call." They mailed the award plaque to Cross, who presented it to Blosser’s family Aug. 25, along with a video of the ceremony.
“The leaders at JBLM were amazing,” said Cross. “They thanked us for keeping his memory alive, and for bringing one of their Soldiers home. To be a part of this—even in a small way—was such an honor. It has been the most fulfilling mission of my military career.”
Note: You can view the video of CPL Blosser’s Order of the Bayonet induction ceremony at this link: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1NBXIqqPSP9HiUVKVlay2F2HlEsAcRA6v/view?usp=sharing