In the greater scheme of things, and given all the world’s innumerable tragedies of truly horrific proportions, the fact that seven Irishmen never came back from the Korean War seems like a small thing.
But if we truly value each and every individual life, it is anything but.
So it is appropriate that this past week – the 65th anniversary of the armistice that brought fighting to a halt of the Korean peninsula – thoughts were directed towards the four U.S. Army soldiers, one U.S. Marine and two missionary priests who gave their lives in Korea, but never made it back to rest in Irish soil, or American.
North Korea has handed over 55 sets of remains of reportedly U.S. soldiers, a fulfillment of a promise made to President Trump during his recent summit meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
The president has hailed it as a “great moment.”
And that it is, even in that greater scheme of things.
An estimated 7,700 U.S. soldiers are listed as missing from the Korean War and the remains of 5,300 are believed to still be in North Korea.
According to reports, between 1996 and 2005, joint U.S.-North Korea military search teams conducted 33 recovery operations that collected 229 sets of American remains. The last time North Korea turned over remains was in 2007 when six sets were returned.
The returned remains are officially listed as the U.S., but that can also mean nationalities other than American serving in U.S. uniform.
And that could mean Irish.
That said, the chances of one of the returning 55 being one of the missing Irish is very, very slim – virtually a statistical negative.
But there’s always hope for the return of Patrick McEnery, Private First Class United States Army, 19th Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division – and Limerick.
There’s always hope for the return of Private William John Mills, Private E-2 United States Army, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division – and Belfast.
There’s always hope for the return of William Francis Murphy, Private First Class United States Army, 38th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division – and Cork City.
There’s always hope for the return of Thomas Joseph O’Brien, Sergeant United States Army, 90th Field Artillery Battalion, 25th Infantry Division – and Tipperary.
There’s always hope for the return of John Patrick White, Private United States Marine Corps, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division – and Kerry.
There’s always hope for the return of Father Thomas Cusack, Columban Fathers, Pastor, Sanjong-Dong Parish Mokpo, South Korea – and Clare.
There’s always hope for the return of Father John O’Brien, Columban Fathers, Assistant Pastor, Sanjong-Dong Parish Mokpo, South Korea – and Roscommon.
The 55 sets of remains will be flown to Hawaii for forensic analysis and DNA testing.
And then we should know.
This article originally appeared in the Irish Echo. You can read more from them here.