Veterans Day marks the anniversary of the end of World War I. It is the holiday on which Americans honor all the men and women who have served in the military. It can also be a painful reminder of those who paid the ultimate price.
One of those individuals is Sgt. Eugene Howard Putney who died in North Korea in June 1951. Over 60 years have passed, and family members are still waiting for his body to be returned from North Korea, where he was taken as a prisoner of war. He died at age 21 and was placed in a mass grave alongside other American prisoners.
The family is still looking for closure, according to his niece, Cynthia Duran. She is planning a memorial service next summer to honor Gene's life and contribution to his family, country and community. Although 60 years have passed, she's hoping surviving friends of Gene's will honor his memory and his family by sending stories to the Putney Family, c/o Cynthia Duran, P.O. Box 1142, Olathe, CO 81425.
Gene attended school in Olathe and was working in the mines in Lake City when he and longtime buddy, Lester Stroup, decided to enlist in the Army in 1949.
Following a short trip home after boot camp, Gene was deployed to Korea in 1950. He was a sergeant with Company A, 1st Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division and was taken prisoner while fighting the enemy in South Korea on Feb. 12, 1951. A telegram confirming his capture dated March 10, 1951, was delivered to his parents, Floyd and Pearl Putney.
Cynthia reports additional information was slow to come. His death was not confirmed by the Army until February 1954. No remains were found.
In 2008, the Army collected DNA from surviving family members in hopes the new technology would finally bring closure. To date no remains have been identified for Sgt. Eugene Howard Putney.
Family members have had extensive contact with prisoners acquainted with Sgt. Putney, and they believe Gene reached the Suan Camps in North Korea even though many men died en route, often at villages where they stopped between their night marches. It's believed Sgt. Putney was one of the men left behind at the Suan Bean Camp when the site was evacuated in April 1951, following an accidental air raid by friendly forces. Sgt. Putney was not listed as an air raid casualty, but many men, unable to march on, were left behind, to be overtaken again.
Sgt. Putney was awarded the Purple Heart with oak leaf cluster, the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Prisoner of War Medal, the South Korean Service Medal, the United Nations Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Korean Presidential Unit Citation and the Republican of Korea War Service Medal.
Gene was the third child of 10. Two sisters and two brothers still mourn his death. He never knew his numerous nieces and nephews, but Cindy says they all feel they know him, as they've heard many stories over the years.
Cindy says the remains of over 200 U.S. servicemen were recovered between 1996 and 2005. While the recovery effort is expected to continue, Cindy says it's time for family members to get the closure her grandparents never experienced. That's what motivated her to begin planning the memorial service.blog comments powered by Disqus