GRIFFIN, Ga. - More than 60 years after he was killed in action, the remains of an Atlanta-area Korean War veteran have been returned to his family.
Interstate 75 was closed as the military motorcade made its way from Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport to Griffin in Spalding County. Pfc Bobby Byars received full military honors.
The fighting in Korea stopped in 1953. Wednesday, 62 years after he was first reported missing in action, Byars returned home. His brother, Charles Byars, was just 13 when his older brother disappeared.
“I really looked up to him. He was sort of my hero,” Byars told Channel 2’s Diana Davis.
In 1993, North Korea turned over 208 boxes of soldier remains to the U.S. government. They contained the remains of 1,000 soldiers. It took 20 years to analyze Byars’ DNA and match it to his brother, nephew and other surviving family members. Charles Byars said he gave up hope long ago.
“I didn't think they would ever find him. Thank the Lord, they didn’t give up. They brought him back,” Charles Byars said.
The remains were flown back to Atlanta before dawn, escorted by the patriot guard military state troopers and dozens of officers from Atlanta and Clayton, Henry and Spalding counties.
Police, firefighters and veterans along the route paid tribute all the way to Griffin. Charles Byars said his mother told him never to give up hope all those years ago.
“My mom said he was coming home, and he's here. He may not be here in body, but he's here in spirit,” he said.
The Byars family told Davis their hearts are overflowing with thanks for the outpouring of support.
“It touched not only my life, but this whole community. What a great turnout they had to welcome us home,” said Charles Byars.
Byars said he’ll never be able to hold or touch his brother again, but he can finally visit his grave and tell him how he never stopped loving him.
“I only knew him 13 years, but he’s been in my heart for 76 years now, and I still miss him every day. He was my big brother,” Byars said.
His brother will be laid to rest Saturday. Funeral services are at the Oak Hill Baptist Church in Griffin at 11 a.m.
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