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ATHENS — Perhaps the last page in the death of a U.S. military veteran has been turned.
The remains of SFC Benny Don Rogers were returned to Athens, and to Hannigan Smith Funeral Home, by a U.S. Army motorcade Thursday.
Rogers has been officially Missing In Action since the Battle of Unsan in North Korea, Nov. 2, 1950. His group was greatly outnumbered by the two divisions of Chinese troops, with the U.S. entering with 800, and leaving with only 200. The 600 were presumed either killed or were MIAs.
Rogers’ father has long been deceased, but his mother died at the age of 97, only three years prior to her son’s remains being flown to Hawaii, and later to Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, and escorted by the U.S. Army to Athens. She had waited for 58 years to hear of her son’s whereabouts before she died with no information to that date.
Edith Rounsavall, Rogers’ aunt, who continues to live near Athens, said she was with his mother when she learned of her son’s death.
“I was there when his mother got the original telegram,” Rounsavall said. “She went to pieces.”
The group that performed the escort function happened to be members of 3-8 Calvary, 3rd Battalion, 8th Regiment, the same Regiment to which Rogers belonged in Korea.
Rogers’ nephew who was named after the soldier, was also at the return of his uncle’s remains.
“This made me feel special,” Benny Wherley said. “I’ve waited a long time. One day, I’ll meet him again.”
Rogers’ sister-in-law, Ruth Davis, also was “overjoyed” with the return of his remains.
“It’s sad that his mother missed his homecoming,” Davis said. “He was 17 at the time. He lied about his age to get into the military. His records show he was born in 1925, but it was actually 1930.”
Interestingly, Davis said she was sad about his death, but there was a very positive side to the way it happened.
“We received his skeletal remains, and it was shown that there was a bullet hole in the skull. That, to me, means he probably wasn’t a long-time prisoner of war, and he didn’t starve to death. He died with little pain. It was done quickly,” she said.
Davis said her uncle’s missing remains for so many years has brought her to action.
“I have for a long time, been a member of the Coalition of Families of MIAs, POWs,” she said. “I feel very strongly about this. I kept praying for his remains to be found for my grandmother’s sake. She never recovered from it.”
Rogers was born in Palestine on March 17, 1930 to Charles Frank Rogers and Katie McEvoy Rogers. Also deceased are a brother, Gerald (Jack) Rogers and a sister, June Rogers Wherley, all of Athens.
He is survived by nieces, Ruth Davis and Sally Wilmarth of Palestine, Sandra Groom of Quinlan and Paula Dellinger of Farmersville, nephews Clifford C. Wherley of Mena, Ark., Steven Wherley of Tyler, Benny Don Wherley of Blossom and Glenn Wherley of Dallas.
Also surviving are his aunt, Edith (McEvoy) Rounsavall of Athens and his sister-in-law Ruth Rogers of Palestine. There are also his cousins, Pam Holland and Joe McEvoy of Athens, Pauline Asher of Cayuga and Thomas W. McEvoy of San Rafael, Calif.
Services for Rogers will be 2 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 12 at Willow Springs Baptist Church, 11544 Farm-to-Market 59 South, Athens. Interment with full military honors will be immediately following at Willow Springs Cemetery, under the direction of Hannigan Smith Funeral Home.
The Athens Review is a sister publication of the Corsicana Daily Sun. Want to “Soundoff” on this story? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org