DNA testing has done some amazing things from helping children find their real fathers to solving violent crimes.
And now DNA technology has allowed a prisoner of war’s body to be returned to his home more than 65 years after his death, the Boston Globe has reported.
Corporal Ronald Sparks fought in the Korean War for the United States Army, leaving his hometown of Cambridge, Massachusetts when he was just 19. In 1951, his unit was overrun by Chinese troops, who were supporting the North Koreans and a wounded Ronald was taken away as a prisoner of war.
In May 1951, he died at the age of 20 in a prisoner of war camp in North Korea and his unidentified remains were buried at a cemetery in Hawaii after the war ended. But his family left at home did not know what had happened to him and they never gave up on trying to find his body so he could be buried in a family grave alongside his parents and his brother Clifford who died in childhood when he was hit by a car.
Remains were matched with nephew and great nephew
Ronald’s nephew Bob Sparks spent 11 years trying to trace his uncle’s remains. They were eventually identified using DNA testing and were flown back to Massachusetts on Tuesday, August 16.
The veteran has now been honoured with a procession through Cambridge which went past the home where he used to live. After a funeral, he was buried in the family plot at Woodlawn Cemetery.
The DNA tests matched the remains to Ronald’s nephew and great nephew. Although people tend to think of paternity tests when they think of DNA testing, it is also possible to prove a biological relationship between other family members like uncles and nephews.
The United States Army has an organisation which is dedicated to identifying soldiers whose bodies were never found. Known as the Past Conflict Repatriations Branch, it has its own DNA database to help match relatives to remains of unknown soldiers.
Bob, who only met his uncle once when he was just three-years-old, had promised his dying father that he would do everything he could to bring Ronald home.
He told the Boston Globe: “I’m so pleased to have brought an American hero home. I feel like I’ve done something for Ron.”