Never Forgotten: Honors for fallen Soldier brings family closure after 70 years

By Spc. Jesse Elbouab, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

Members from Kentucky Army National Guard Honor Guard team fold the US flag during the repatriation of Cpl. Billie Joe Hash at Worley Cemetery, Corbin, Ky., Aug. 29, 2020. Hash was missing in action for 70 years. (US Army National Guard photo by Spc. Jesse Elbouab, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

CORBIN, Ky. — We know it as The Forgotten War. Falling behind the shadow of World War I, and ending before the controversial Vietnam conflict, The Korean War slipped undercover.

Thirty-seven thousand American lives paid the ultimate price during its three-year span, and many of these fallen heroes never made it home.

(Click here for more photos taken during the event)

For one family from southern Kentucky, the letters, the photos, the tears, and the waiting for any news on Cpl. Billie Joe Hash kept the Forgotten War at its forefront.

After missing in action for 70 years, Aug. 26 marked the day they finally brought the Soldier home. In a bevy of flags, surrounded by family, friends, and veterans from several generations, they gave Cpl. Hash a hero’s welcome. Then, on Aug. 29, they laid him to rest at the Worley Cemetery, near his hometown of Corbin, Ky.

“A lovely lady called me and said, ‘We have the remains of your uncle. Are you the niece of Billie Joe Hash?’” said Peggy Bishop. “I couldn’t speak. I had never been called the niece, and it brought it home and made it real.”

In the early 1950s, Billie Joe Hash joined the military and left Corbin at the age of 18. Hash’s mother, Liza Whitis Hash, affectionally known as Granny, never gave up hope that someday Billie Joe would return home.

Granny’s prayers finally came true when they identified and accounted for Hash’s remains on May 27, 2020. More than 70 years had passed. 

Hash served in Korea with Headquarters Battery, 57th Field Artillery Battalion. His unit, along with a small allied force, succumbed to an overwhelming blow of enemy forces near North Korea. After a two-week-long battle, authorities reported Hash as missing in action. He was presumed dead three years later, on Dec. 31, 1953.

Soldiers from the Kentucky Army National Guard Funeral Guard, family, friends and community members gather at Worley Cemetery on August 29, 2020 for fallen Korean War Soldier, Cpl. Billie Joe Hash. Hash was reported missing in action in the early 50’s. He was later identified and returned home to Corbin, Kentucky. (US Army National Guard Photo by Spc. Jesse Elbouab, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.)

“I would like to say on behalf of all those who have served or serving, thank you to Billie and his family for their sacrifices,” said Cpt. Melissa C. Mattingly, Kentucky National Guard Casualty Affairs Officer. 

“A favorite scripture verse reads, ‘Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.’ Thank you, Billie, for being a friend,” she said.

Local Veteran groups and countless military and civilian organizations supported the family to bring Cpl. Hash home.

Members from Kentucky National Guard Honor Guard served the event with plane-side and funeral honors.

The honor guard team presented Hash’s youngest sister, Janie Davis, with the flag bearing the weight of her loved one’s sacrifice.

For paying the ultimate price, Hash’s awards include the Purple Heart, a National Defense Service Medal, a Korean Service Medal, and several others.

Janie Davis holds the US flag as presented to her during the repatriation of her older brother, Cpl. Billie Joe Hash, who went missing in action during the Korean War. They held the ceremony in Corbin, Ky., Aug. 29, 2020. (Army Photo by Spc. Jesse Elbouab, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.)

The Hash family found peace in recovering their lost Soldier. His name will never be forgotten for generations to come. 

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