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Postponed military funeral for local Korean War soldier now set for Monday

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William Lee Brown Korean war

MOUND CITY (WSIL) -- Nearly 70 years after his passing, William Lee Brown will be laid to rest at the Mound City National Cemetery.

Brown, who was a Sesser native, had his remains flown from Hawaii to St. Louis early this week and will now have his military rites on Monday, August 17th.

Only a limited number of attendees can attend and those that do must wear a face mask and practice social distancing.

The honor was originally scheduled for April 3rd but Veterans' Affairs began postponing services on March 23rd due to COVID-19 concerns and only started to resume them again in June.

At that time, News 3 spoke to Brown's younger sister Dr. Clarice Burchell, who was just a young girl when he went missing.

Following news of the postponement, Burchell said with time comes patience and that she would just have to wait a little longer to give her the brother the proper burial that he deserves.

"It's one of those things that we have to live through our years of experience and that is learning patience, " she said in April. "Patience is hard to learn and it's a life-long process. "

Brown, 18, was a member of Company B, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division.

Burchell remembered that he was so eager to join the Army that he lied about his birth date and was actually only 17 when he enlisted.

He was reported missing in action on December 2, 1950, following an attack by enemy forces in the area of the Chosin Reservoir, North Korea.

According to Burchell, the day her brother went missing actually marked his 18th birthday.

In July of 2018, North Korea turned over 55 boxes containing the remains of American service members killed during the Korean War. The remains were sent to the DPAA laboratory at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickman for identification.

Scientists used circumstantial evidence, mitochondrial DNA, and autosomal DNR analysis to identify the remains as Brown.

Burchell told in April that she and her son offered up DNA just in case his body was ever found and that she never got the chance to properly grieve until that single bone had been identified.

"I found out that because I was unable to grieve at his passing, at his death," she explains. "Passing I think is too easy of a word to say. I was just totally amazed, and I found out that as I talk about him the tears come again."

Burchell also recalled that a friend who enlisted with Brown had witnessed his final moments and shared those with her mother when he returned from war.

"He was hit with a mortar shell. One second he was there and the next second he was gone ," she remembered the solider telling her mother. "I believe this why they have found no more remains other than what was found."

Burchell chose to have her brother laid to rest at the Mound City National Cemetery after her son told her about its past leading back more than 150 years ago.

"I knew nothing about it and he explained to me that it dates back to the Civil War," she explained in April. "There are men, soldiers, who were buried there at that time."

Adding more significance to the burial there, Burchell's son is a military veteran who served time in the Gulf War as a Marine and several of her grand children also served the country.

On Monday, August 10th his remains were flown from Hawaii where they were identified to St. Louis where Burchell was awaiting.

She told News 3 that she wants his military rites to be a celebration of his too-short life.

Brown is a true American hero receiving the Purple Heart as well as service medals from South Korea following his passing.

Brooke Schlyer

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