More Than 70 Years after He Died Fighting for His Country, a Soldier from SC Returned Home
For more than 70 years, it was unknown by family where Cpl. Ralph Boughman’s remains were located after he was killed in the Korean War fighting for his country in 1950.
His journey had just begun. After finishing basic training, he was transferred to Fort Lawton in Seattle, Washington, and then to Japan for a year before heading to Korea.
Assigned to the Army’s Company B, 1st Battalion, 32 Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division, Boughman’s unit was attacked on Dec. 2, 1950, by Chinese troops near the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea.
He didn’t survive the fighting, but since his body could not be found at the time, Boughman was reported missing in action.
It wasn’t until Dec. 21, 1953 that he was declared dead, with his family in Union receiving an Army telegram. The location of his body, however, was unknown.
As decades passed, Boughman’s family still hoped his remains would be returned home to Union.
Their prayers were answered in August 2018, when Boughman’s remains arrived at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii and were positively identified in April 2020 using DNA. North Korea, following a summit in June 2018 with President Donald Trump, had agreed to release remains of America service members killed during the Korean War with Boughman’s remains included in one of the 55 boxes turned over to the U.S.
After his remains arrived in Charlotte this past week, they were taken to Union where he was laid to rest at the Rosemont Cemetery on Saturday.
Nephew Larry Boughman of Greeneville, Tennessee, was among those who attended the memorial service at Lewis Funeral Home Chapel on South Duncan Bypass in Union.
An American flag was draped over his uncle’s casket, and members of the Patriot Guard Riders stood outside the chapel holding American flags as people entered. Formed in 2005, Patriot Guard Riders’ members attend funerals of members of U.S. military by invitation.
Members of Rolling Thunder — and advocacy group that brings attention to missing-in-action service members and prisoners of war of all U.S. wars — also showed their respect for Boughman’s family during the service and participated in the procession from the chapel to the cemetery.
When Larry Boughman received a phone call in April 2020 from Fort Knox, Kentucky, he was reluctant to answer since he typically only answers calls from people that he knows. He went to put his phone back in his pocket but decided to answer instead.
It was a call from the Army letting him know that his uncle’s remains had been found.
“It was chilling,” Larry Boughman said. “I could hardly believe it.”
During the memorial service, several family members spoke about Ralph’s life on the farm near Santuc, where he did chores and liked to roam the 180 acres. When he got older, he worked with his father J.Q. Boughman in the lumber business, helping out at the sawmill.
Of Ralph’s nine siblings, Pansy Boughman Bourne, 89, of Union is the last remaining living sibling. She was grateful to see her brother’s remains return home and was able to attend the memorial.
During the memorial, the American flag draped on her brother’s casket was folded and given to her at graveside.
“I am so surprised we had such a good turnout and appreciate everyone coming,” Bourne said. “It is great and wonderful he (Ralph) is here at last and just a few miles from his home place. I am so glad the Lord let us find him. I prayed for it, and he answered my prayers.”
Bourne shared a moment at graveside with Aubrey Green, 91, of Union County, who joined the Army with Ralph.
“We joined the service together, and I spent the night with him before we joined the next day at Fort Jackson,” Green said. “We got separated there for a while, and I didn’t see him until we got to Seattle. He (Ralph) was a cook, and I would see him with a white uniform on. Having him back makes me feel good.”
Nephew Glenn Boughman of Whitestone said a prayer during the service. He said he gave thanks to the Lord for returning his uncle to the family.
“From that day the family was first notified, there was a great unknown for the family about what happened to him,” he said. “When his remains were found and identified and released from Korea to here, it took many steps and a chain of events.”
During the service, hymns “How Great Thou Art” and “Where the Roses Never Fade” were performed by family members.
Nephew Ernie Boughman of Spartanburg gave the eulogy. He recalled when a telegram was sent to Ralph’s parents in January 1951 stating he was MIA after the battle.
“Even though I was not quite 6 years old, I remember the family gathering and just remember grandmother was heartbroken,” Ernie Boughman said. “She broke down and cried, and there was just sadness in the whole house.”
Two years after he was killed, the family received Ralph’s personal belongings from the Army, including a sewing kit, mechanical pencil, silk jacket, Japanese flag, one ring, one bracelet, a baseball and three pennies.
The day before his memorial, a ceremony was held with the Army recognizing Ralph’s military service. On behalf of her brother, Bourne accepted his Purple Heart, Gold Star, Combat Infantry Badge, Marksmanship Badge, Korean Service Medal, National Defense Medal, Republic of Korea Presidential Citation, United Nations Service Medal, Republic of Korea War Services Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal and Army Presidential Unit Citation Medal.
During the service, the Rev. Bill Strong shared encouraging scripture verses and acknowledged how difficult it was for the family to go more than 70 years without knowing if their loved one’s remains would ever return home.
“I have had this sense of finding my own grief swelling me up to tears as I think what your family has gone through and not knowing,” Strong said. “This family has gone 70 plus years seeking this closure.” — Chris Lavender is the public safety and breaking news reporter for the Spartanburg Herald-Journal. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @LavenderSHJ.
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