Hundreds line streets as Hogansville pays respect to fallen Korean War soldier

Hundreds of people in Hogansville lined the streets for a long and overdue homecoming for a Korean War veteran killed in action 69 years ago this month.  The remains of Sergeant Billy Joe Maxwell arrived in his hometown Thursday afternoon, ending a long and painful time for his family.  

A US Army honor guard from Fort Benning presided over a short ceremony at Hartsfield Jackson International Airport as Maxwell’s coffin was removed from a Delta Air Lines jet. A procession made up of law enforcement, firefighters and the Patriot Guard escorted the hearse back to Hogansville.  Residents waived flags or stood in silent respect as the hearse made its way down Main St. to the funeral home. 

RELATED: Hoganville residents encouraged to line streets to honor Korean War soldier

Sgt. Maxwell was 19-years-old when the army reported him missing in action after the historic Battle for the Chosin Reservoir, during which United Nations forces were overrun by the Chinese military who had entered the war. 

His nephew Jim Maxwell was born after the battle but has lived through and shared the family’s pain of never knowing what happened to Billy Joe.

“They had taken DNA samples from my dad and two of my uncles,” Maxwell said.  “There was always hope they would find him.”

The North Korean government in June 2018 released 55 cases of human remains following the summit with President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un.  

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Remarkably, Sgt Billy Maxwell’s remains were identified from DNA provided by this surviving brothers. 

The US says 7,000 service members remain missing from the Korean War, the pain of which, the Maxwell family says it knows all too well.

Maxwell will be buried with full military honors at Myrtle Hill Cemetery in Hogansville on Saturday at 2 p.m. 

RELATED: Remains of Korean War soldier returning to Georgia nearly 70 years after his death