65 Years After Death, Body of Korean War Veteran Returns Home to San Diego

The long overdue homecoming on Jan. 7 of the body of U.S. Army Major Jack Griffith – who died 65 years ago -- brought the tarmac at the San Diego International Airport to a brief standstill while people paid their respects

More than six decades after his death, a U.S. military veteran who served in the Korean War finally made his way home to San Diego.

On Saturday, the body of U.S. Army Major Jack Griffith arrived at Lindbergh Field in a coffin draped with the American Flag. A military funeral honors team helped move the coffin from the plane.

The dignified transfer and emotional, long overdue homecoming brought the airport tarmac to a brief, solemn standstill as people paid their respects to the military veteran.

Griffith’s family waited at the tarmac, taking part in the touching tribute. They hugged and gazed at their loved one’s coffin. After a lifetime of waiting for Griffith, he was home.

The veteran died 65 years ago while in captivity as a Prisoner of War in Korea. Surviving POWs reported Griffith’s death but his death certificate showed there were no remains to prove it.

For his family, his death was a painful mystery for decades.

Thanks to modern DNA analysis and dental records, family members recently learned of his body buried inside a grave in Hawaii.

Now, his family and friends will be able to hold a proper burial for the veteran.

Sgt. 1st Class Lee Carranza, with the NCIOC Military Funeral Honors Team, was part of the team that helped in Griffith’s ceremony at Lindbergh Field.

He said Griffith’s homecoming was important to both the vet’s family and the military – no matter how much time had passed since his death.

“It doesn't matter if it was 60 years or 50, or whether it was last week, what's important is our goal to take care of soldiers,” Carranza told NBC 7. “We don't want to leave anyone behind, but God forbid if it does occur, we certainly want to bring them back. And it doesn't matter how long it takes.”

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