Sixty-two years after he was lost to the fire of war, the remains of Roosevelt Clark are finally coming home this week.
Clark, a Bakersfield High School football player who grew up in Arvin, was just 18 when he was declared missing in action following a terrible battle on Nov. 25, 1950.
That's when American forces, including Clark's 35th Infantry Regiment were overwhelmed as elements of the Chinese People's Volunteer Forces attacked allied positions in North Korea.
For decades, Clark's physical remains were lost to his comrades, his country, his family. Those physical remains were only recently identified through DNA analysis.
On Wednesday, Clark will be flown, with full military escort and honors, to Los Angeles International Airport. From there he will be carried by hearse to Hillcrest Mortuary in Bakersfield, escorted by Patriot Guard Riders from Southern California and Kern County.
Army Lt. Jennifer Thurston, a casualty assistance officer and one of those expected to accompany the procession into Bakersfield, said the group is projected to arrive at Hillcrest on Kern Canyon Road at about 9 a.m., but that time is not firm.
"I will be following the hearse in another vehicle," she said. "I will also be acting as aide-de-camp to Brig. Gen. Sylvia Crockett."
Gen. Crockett is expected to attend Clark's funeral at 11 a.m. Friday at People's Missionary Baptist Church, 1451 Madison St., in southeast Bakersfield. She will also present awards to surviving members of Clark's family.
The public is invited.
Following the memorial service, Clark's remains will be taken to Hillcrest Cemetery, where honors will be rendered, flags presented to the family and Clark will be laid to rest -- a rest that is much deserved and long overdue.
Kern County resident Larry Gillette, assistant state captain with the Patriot Guard Riders, said he and others in the guard want to honor and pay their respects to members of the Armed Forces, especially those who have paid the ultimate price.
And Clark's case is as compelling as thay come.
"How often does this happen?" he said. "How often do you have the chance to participate in something like this?"
Indeed, when one looks at the old yellowing photograph of Clark as a fresh-faced high school student, it's hard to imagine that, if he were alive today, he would be 80 years old.
David Jackson, commander of the Kern County chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, said he's not sure how many people will be at Hillcrest when the procession arrives. But he will be there, he said, with other military veterans and anyone else who believes their presence there is warranted.
Knowing Bakersfield, the number could be significant.
"No fallen serviceman should come home without someone there to receive him and honor him," Jackson said. ___