PINKNEYVILLE, ILL. - Vernon D. Presswood was supposed to be back in 17 months, when he left Pinkneyville, Illinois to fight in the Korean War.
Presswood, known by his middle name Doug to his friends and family, joined the Army with four friends on a whim, as the story goes.
Three of the five returned to Pinkneyville, Presswood was not with them.
According to the Army, Presswood was one of 2,500 U.S. and 700 South Korean soldiers overrun by Chinese forces east of the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea in late November 1950.
Presswod was declared missing in action when his unit could not find him by December 2.
His status was updated to deceased by the Army in 1953 when his name never showed up on any POW lists, and no repatriated soldiers had any information about his whereabouts.
Back home, his mother held out hope that he lived, as did his sister Phyllis.
Phyllis’ faith began to diminish as the years went by, slowly accepting that her brother was gone and she would never see him again.
Then in 2006 the Army sought her DNA and that of her son.
They wanted samples to compare to remains they were recovering near where her brother was fighting.
The recovery efforts were stymied about a year later, and the family assumed Presswood would never be found.
That is until September when they received word that they had been able to get back into the area and had recovered the remains of seven soldiers in a mass grave.
One of those soldiers matched the DNA supplied by Phyllis and her son, Presswood had been found and was coming home.
She and her family had waited so long and had practically given up hope of recovering Doug, the news came as a shock to Phyllis.
The family felt it would be fitting to have his remains returned to Pinkneyville and interred on December 3, 2016; 66 years and a day after he was declared MIA.
In the last letter Presswood wrote before his death, he told his family that he felt he would be part of the war for its duration.
He couldn’t say how long that duration would be, possibly six months, perhaps six years; regardless he expressed that if he could do it again, he wouldn’t miss it.
Presswood closed his letter this way, “It isn’t nearly as bad as they say it is. See you in 17 months, lots of love, Doug.”
For Phyllis, those 17 months have finally come to an end.