Decades of hope fulfilled

by Vince Dragone

MARIENVILLE, Pa.— After more than 70 years listed as Missing in Action, Sgt. Richard Sharrow, a local soldier killed in the Korean War, was finally laid to rest in his hometown with full military honors on Sept. 25. The ceremony took place at St. Ann Cemetery in Marienville, with Father Cory Pius officiating the graveside services.

Sgt. Sharrow was born on March 4, 1928, in Marienville, one of 11 children of the late Charles and Effie Barr Sharrow. A proud patriot, he was among nine boys in his family to serve in the U.S. military. Sharrow served in the U.S. Navy from November 1945 to November 1947 before reenlisting in the U.S. Army during the Korean War.

His unit encountered heavy enemy forces in July 1950 near Yongdong, South Korea. Reported as MIA on July 25, 1950, he was later declared deceased on Dec. 31, 1953 by the U.S. Army. Advances in DNA technology eventually led to his identification, facilitated by DNA samples donated by his sister, Rose, and great-niece, Skye.

For decades, Sharrow remained unidentified. His remains were recovered near Yongdong and designated as Unknown X-1023. His remains were buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu, Hawaii, along with other Korean War Unknowns. Skye Peterson, Sharrow’s great-niece, had submitted her DNA sample in 1998 at the request of her grandmother, Rose Johnson. Rose, who was Sharrow’s sister, harbored hopes that this would someday lead to her brother’s identification. That hope came to fruition when Sharrow was finally identified on Jan. 24.

The long-overdue homecoming began when a procession escorted Sharrow's remains from Furlong Funeral Home to St. Ann Cemetery. Sgt. Sharrow's casketed remains were accompanied by his great-niece, Technical Sgt. Holly Phillips, currently serving with the Illinois Air National Guard.

The Marienville Fire Department lined the streets, while active-duty soldiers, veterans, law enforcement officers and community members came to pay their respects. The Brookville Honor Guard also accorded full military honors during the burial.

Greg Furlong, who handled the funeral arrangements, said, "It's been an honor and a privilege. The turnout and the support of the community and the military were amazing."

Sgt. 1st Class Ronald Billups, the family's casualty assistance officer, shared the same sentiment. "I feel proud and honored to be here," he said.

Peterson expressed relief and happiness that her great-uncle is finally home. "Very emotional, but happy that he's finally home. He's with his parents and his siblings," she said.

The burial marks an emotional end to a seven-decade-long chapter for the Sharrow family and the Marienville community. It also serves as a poignant reminder of the sacrifices made by military members and their families.