Last week, the remains of 55 possible missing American soldiers returned to home soil in Hawaii. Now the long process of identification has begun.
One part of identification that does not take as long as DNA testing and matching is the recovery of dog tags. Last week a dog tag belonging to Army Master Sgt. Charles Hobert McDaniel was discovered among the remains in one of the 55 boxes.
The Army delivered the news to his two sons, retired Army Green Beret Charles McDaniel Jr., 71, and Larry McDaniel, 70.
“They said, ‘We found one dog – and it’s your father’s,” said McDaniel Jr. “I sat there, and I cried for a while and took a while to compose myself.”
“You’re thinking one in a 1,000 chance, you know. So, then they said, ‘We found a dog tag,’ and – I need a break,” McDaniel recalled, overcome with emotion.
“Deep things that – because you’ve got to press back on those things – you cannot live your life with that upfront. We have to suppress that emotion.”
“I can recall him coming home from work in Japan, and me running out to him, and him picking me up and holding me, carrying me,” he said. “That’s the only genuine memory that I can clearly go back to.”
It was a memory that he held dear to for 68 years.
His father was an Army medic in the Third Infantry Division and went missing in 1950. He disappeared near the Chosin Reservoir during the Battle of Wonson, where the US lost over 600 soldiers in one night.
Sgt. Charles Hobert McDaniel was also a World War II combat veteran and recipient of a Bronze Star.
The brothers understand that their father’s remains may not be in one of the 55 boxes but are grateful for the dog tag. “At least we have this,” said McDaniel Jr. “And we’re thankful for that.”
Larry McDaniel was too young to remember his father and their mother is still alive but has “significant memory issues.” “But in the moment, she understands,” said McDaniel Jr.
Both brothers are thankful for President Donald Trump’s efforts to recover the remains of missing Korean War soldiers and give some families the opportunity for closure.
“I appreciate that he got it done, you know? I mean, nobody else had in 68 years, so I’m appreciative of that,” said McDaniel Jr. “There are still a lot of folks that are waiting and wondering, and we got a little bit of certitude.”