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Soldier laid to rest 67 years after being listed as MIA

ELGIN  Attendees bundled up Friday to pay their last respects to a war hero who is finally resting in the soil of his native state 67 years after being listed as missing in action.

Joining family members of Sgt. 1st Class Alfred Gady Bensinger Jr. for his graveside services at the Fort Sill National Cemetery were the Patriot Guard Riders, a military honors team, a chaplain from Fort Sill, and many veterans and well-wishers who simply wanted to show their support for an American who gave the last full measure of devotion for his countrymen.

Two of the soldier's nieces spoke at the service. The first was Gayle Browning of Little Rock, Ark., who said the deceased was "Gerald" to his family, but his Army brothers called him "Al." She then read a poem in memory of her uncle.

Afterward, she said that the services and burial mean that her mother finally has closure. Her mother, Joyce Bensinger Browning, turned 90 in October, and she is the sister of the deceased. Gayle Browning said her mother worked hard, wrote letters and gave her DNA to enable her brother's remains to be properly identified.

Gayle Browning's younger sister, Carol Sylvey of Texarkana, Ark., stepped up to the flag-draped casket with a white lily in hand and reminded those present that they may be cold, but her uncle had to deal with far worse cold at the Battle of Chosin Reservoir.

Bensinger served in the South Pacific during World War II from 1943 to 1946. In the Korean War he was a member of Company D, 2nd Engineer Combat Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division. The Korean battle of Kunu-Ri is a solemn moment etched in the memory of the survivors of the 2nd Engineer Battalion.

After many days of brutal fighting in the cold fall of 1950, the U.S. and the United Nations ordered their troops to withdraw through the only escape route, a mountain pass. With the approach of a massive Chinese force, the 2nd Engineer Battalion held off the assault long enough for the other troops to safely evacuate.

Unfortunately, the remaining battalion received the full brunt of the enemy, and its window of opportunity to escape closed. They soaked all their equipment in gasoline and set it on fire to prevent the Chinese from capturing it as possible war trophies. To this day, the battalion ritually burns its colors each year in tribute to their heroism.

Over 700 troops were killed or taken as prisoners of war. Bensinger was among the latter. He was reported as missing in action on Dec. 1, 1950. American POWs who survived the war said he died of malnutrition, exposure and dysentery on Jan. 19, 1951, at a POW transient camp known as the Hofong Camp, a sub-camp of the Pukchin-Tarigol Main Camp Cluster.

In April 2005, an Army Recovery Team with both the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) and the Korean People's Army recovered human remains from a site south of Unsan. The remains included 32 different individuals and appeared to have originated from a previous burial site. The remains were then sent to the DPAA laboratory for analysis. Bensinger's remains were positively identified on July 25, 2017.

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