"These heroes were never forgotten": Pence comes to Hawaii to formally receive war remains
65 years after an armistice ended the conflict and weeks after President Donald Trump received a commitment from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for their return.
HONOLULU - Dozens of cases believed to hold the remains of U.S. service members killed during the Korean War touched down on U.S. soil.
Vice President Mike Pence solemnly held his hand over heart as 55 cases draped with the American Flag were unloaded from military aircraft and lined up inside a hangar at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
"Some have called the Korean War the "forgotten war." But today, we prove these heroes were never forgotten. Today, our boys are coming home," Pence said.
Each case was carried by four members of the military representing the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.
North Korea handed over the remains as part of a historic agreement last month between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
"We see today as tangible progress in our efforts to achieve peace on the Korean Peninsula. But today is just a beginning. Our work will not be complete until all our fallen heroes are accounted for," Pence said.
Of the 55 presumed American soldiers, returned. None have yet been identified.
Jeannie Jin, a forensic anthropologist for the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, also known as DPPA, did a preliminary inspection of the remains.
"One of the most important things we looked at was to see if there were any other bones like mixed in like animal bones but we didn't see any of those and the remains the condition were very similar to what received back in the 90s," Jin said.
Jin adds along with the remains, material evidence associated to the U.S. armed forces was also discovered.
All cases will now go to the DPPA for further analysis and identification.
"Whosoever emerges from these aircraft. Today begins a new season of hope for the families of our missing fallen," Pence said.
Some scientists have already gotten a sneak peek inside those 55-cases and are confident the contents are human remains.
Next stop, a forensic lab for analysis here in Hawaii in hopes of identifying soldiers, offering closure for families through DNA testing and biological profiles.
"One of the most important things we looked at was to see if there were any other bones mixed in like animal bones but we didn't see any of those and the remains the condition were very similar to what we already received in the 90's and also some material evidence that was associated to United States Armed Forces," Jin said.
The process to identify the remains could take months, maybe even years. Remains of hundreds of U.S. soldiers killed in the Korean War are still un-identified at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl.
Of the approximate 7,700 unaccounted for Americans from the Korean War, an estimated 5,300 are believed to be in North Korea.