Korean War Vet Finally Laid to Rest
Sergeant Robert Dakin has made it home after being declared missing in action during the Korean War in 1950. It took exactly 65 years to the day for the veteran to return to his hometown where he was finally laid to rest in the same vault where the ashes of his mother, Louise, have been sealed since her death in 2002. She always held out hope that her beloved Bobby would return some day, which makes their posthumous reunion all the more bittersweet for their surviving relatives.
Dankin was born in Waltham, Massachusetts on June, 1928 and remained there until enlisting in the U.S. Army at the age of 20 in 1949. He was eventually assigned to Company L, 3rd Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division before being deployed to North Korea. He was just a fresh faced 22 year old when he fought valiantly while his unit was being attacked by enemy forces in the brutal 17-day Battle of Chosin Reservoir, a battle that left roughly 10,000 soldiers dead. His fate remained unknown and he was reported missing in action on December 12, 1950. Three years went by without a sign of the young soldier or his remains, which resulted in him being reported as killed in action.
The United States received 208 boxes of human remains from North Korea between 1990 and 1994. The remains were found near the Kuryong River and belong to 600 of the U.S. Military members who fought in the war. This is also the area Dakin was thought to have died. DNA testing was conducted by scientists from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory. Circumstantial evidence, mitochondrial DNA and autosomal DNA were used to accurately determine Dakin’s identity by matching reference samples from his mother and two sisters.
There are still 7,800 American soldiers missing in action or presumed dead from the Korean War. The Defense Department is working hard to bring more heroes home through the help of advanced DNA testing and laboratories.
A Homecoming 65 Years in the Making
The long journey home finally ended when Dankin’s remains were safely escorted from the Logan Airport by the Massachusetts State Police while en-route to the Joyce Funeral Home. Once at the funeral home, he was posthumously awarded a Purple Heart which was presented to his family by an honor guard prior to the wake and a funeral services that were held on Friday and Saturday.
Many spoke highly of Dakin during his services and noted what an honor it was to be part of welcoming him home after so many years.
“It’s an honor for the city of Waltham for him to be laid to rest here,” Michael Russo, the city’s director of veterans’ services said. “The Waltham community came together to give him a homecoming and show their respect and appreciation for him making the ultimate sacrifice.
“Bobby was a lifelong resident of Waltham. Waltham was the only home he ever knew,” said Derek Hughes, Dakin’s great-nephew, at his funeral mass. “It’s only fitting that he be laid to rest in the city he loved so much. Welcome home Bobby.”
Also speaking at the funeral was Dakin’s boyhood friend, Lorne MacArthur, who spoke highly of the soldier and their days playing football together. “Today we come together to recognize what Bobby meant to the city. A great athlete, a great kid and I’m really proud to know his family…and it brings a good deal of closure to me. He’s always been on my mind,” he said. “Today we gather in Waltham, his hometown…to come together and show our honor and respect for a great American who gave his best.”
Honoring a Hometown Hero
And honor him they did indeed with a true heroes funeral procession that included members of the Waltham Police, American Legion Riders Motorcycle Club and members of the Army National Guard, who served as guides while Dankin’s flag adorned casket made its way by horse-drawn carriage to Mount Feake Cemetery.
A palpable swell of emotion swirled through the warm December air and was carried along with the sounds of bagpipes, drums and horse hooves while the procession moved along Main Street. Waltham’s residents lined the streets by the hundreds to honor Dankin by waving American flags and holding handmade signs that read “Welcome Home.”
Welcome home, Sgt. Dakin. Thank you for your service and for making the ultimate sacrifice in the name of freedom. HOOAH!