KINGSLEY — Twenty-one shots from an honor guard. The haunting sound of a bugler playing Taps. Then, total silence as two more Michigan Army National Guard honor guard members folded the flag draped over U.S. Army Sgt. David Feriend's casket, presenting one to his two sisters.
Those sights and sounds marked the moment Feriend finally came home. He was laid to rest Sunday in Evergreen Cemetery near Kingsley, nearly 69 years after he went missing in battle in the Korean War.
Feriend was last seen Dec. 6, 1950, during the battle of Chosin Reservoir trying to get injured soldiers to safety, Pastor Colleen Wierman told the circle of people gathered at his grave site. He sacrificed his safety to help his wounded comrades, she said, one of many he made before paying the ultimate price.
"In his sacrifice, then, I see the face of God," she said. "Maybe he made those sacrifices so we could see the face of God, too."
A photograph of Sgt. David A. Feriend is displayed at Covell Funeral Home on Sunday in Kinglsey. Sgt. Feriend fought in the Korean War and was declared missing in action on Dec. 6, 1950, during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir (Mike Krebs via Record-Eagle)
The identification of Feriend's remains, announced by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency in August, answers a question long on the minds of his family members. Ilene Arbogast, Feriend's sister, said the family hoped he had been captured but it wasn't true.
Arbogast said their parents never gave up hope, and on Sunday she said she's "happy as can be" to have Feriend back.
"It's been many years of wishing and hoping, but he's home," she said.
Arbogast, of Spring Lake, Michigan, found out in August after she got a call from the Department of Defense asking to meet, about what she had no idea, she said.
Doris Clark found out from Arbogast, she said — the two women are Feriend's last surviving siblings. Clark and her brother had submitted what are called "spit kits" for DNA verification.
North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Yong Un agreed to release remains of U.S. soldiers killed in action during the war when he met with President Donald Trump in June 2018. The North Korean government turned over 55 boxes of remains.
One of those boxes just happened to hold Feriend's remains, Clark said, calling it a "miracle."
Feriend's remains are among more than a dozen Korean War casualties identified around the same time. Some, like Army Corporal Charles Lawler of Traverse City, also were turned over following the diplomatic breakthrough. Others had been turned over or recovered earlier.
The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency states 7,606 U.S. soldiers who fought in the Korean War remain unaccounted for.
Feriend died in a brutal battle that came during the tipping point of a war that still hasn't officially ended, killed 1 million or more and left the Korean peninsula split to this day.
The Korean War looked all but won by November 1950, with North Koreans beat back to a strip along the Chinese border, according to the National Museum of the United States Army. Then, thousands of Chinese soldiers crossed into North Korea late that month, attacking U.S. troops and encircling their positions around the Chosin Reservoir.
The ensuing battle nearly wiped out the Seventh Infantry Division's 31st Regiment, museum Chief Historian Matthew Seelinger wrote — Feriend belonged to this regiment.
Chinese forces went on to push U.S. and allied troops completely out of North Korea, with the resulting border stalemate finally ending in armistice in 1953 — the year Feriend was declared dead.
Arbogast said her brother joined the Army just before he graduated high school, then reenlisted when he couldn't find work.
She remembers him as a happy-go-lucky boy and a good brother.
Clark, now of Chico, California, said her brother loved to sing country western songs. She remembers how he would wake her up after delivering papers to build a fire to warm the house. The two would then share braided bismarcks — twisted pastries with cinnamon and sugar — with their dog.
He also towed Clark on a sled once as he skated on a pond, she recalled.
"He flipped the rope, and when he did my hands were the first to leave the sled and my derriere followed really fast like," she said.
She skinned her head in the resulting spill, and the spot ached every winter for years afterward, Clark said with a laugh.
Both sisters recalled their brother inside Covell Funeral Home, where a crowd gathered Sunday morning to pay their respects to Feriend.
Arbogast said she's been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and media attention Feriend's identification spurred.
Clark said it feels good to know her brother is home in spirit and in body.
"But he's home, he's just plain home," she said. "It's where he belongs. There's something to be said about home and that's where he's at."
©2019 The Record-Eagle (Traverse City, Mich.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.