DNA tests identify Ky. native, Korean War soldier 7 decades after battlefield death

“900 of the soldiers went out to fight this battle. It was really a tough battle,” Hettinger said. “Out of the 900, only 400 came back.”
Published: Dec. 6, 2022 at 4:36 PM EST
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - After 72 years, the body of a United States soldier comes home to Kentucky.

Private First Class Robert Wright from Whitesville disappeared while fighting in the Korean War. He was originally designated as Missing in Action and later presumed dead.

In Aug., DNA testing identified Wright’s remains, ending his family’s long wait for answers.

“My grandmother, it was hard for her to live with that,” Wright’s niece, Mary Hettinger, said. “But uncle Bobby wanted so bad to go to serve our country.”

Hettinger described how Wright was 17 years old when he begged his mother to sign papers letting him enlist.

He was later killed at the age of 18.

Hettinger said an autopsy revealed Wright suffered a traumatic and violent death on the battlefieldHettinger said he had been shot, stabbed with a bayonet and suffered an injury to the face, possibly from being struck by the butt of a rifle.

“900 of the soldiers went out to fight this battle. It was really a tough battle,” Hettinger said. “Out of the 900, only 400 came back.”

Hettinger said Wright’s mother never stopped imagining that her son might still be alive. Those hopes eventually died with her and with all of Wright’s six brothers and six sisters.

His arrival at Louisville Muhammad Ali International was greeted by an honor guard, marking the end of a soldier’s journey home.

Hettinger said her annual Christmas ritual of placing a wreath on her uncle’s memorial marker in Whitesville will now hold new meaning.

”Because this year, when we put the wreath down at Christmas, we’ll know it will be with his remains there,” Hettinger said. “And I know my grandmother would be tickled to death.”