After more than 60 years, a Korean War soldier who died as a prisoner of war, has come home to Marion County. Alva Clifford Groves enlisted in the Army when he was just 17 yeas old. It would be the last time he would ever be in Marion County, that is until Tuesday.
It was a hero's welcome in Fairmont as a procession carrying the remains of Corporal Alva Clifford Groves drove across the Gateway Connector from Pittsburgh.
For Groves' sister, Lillian Anderson, the journey home brought back a flood of emotions.
"He wasn't quiet. He wasn't the quiet type. He didn't go in for sports, but he was active. He enjoyed doing things, anything to keep himself active, and he was good-hearted," said Anderson.
Anderson remembers it like it was yesterday: the day her big brother begged their parents to let him enlist in the United States Army.
"They weren't really happy about it. They thought he was too young, but my mother was willing to do it because he wanted it so badly. So he was 17 in May, and he went in September, or that fall sometime," said Anderson.
Then a few short months later - the news that no family ever wants to hear. Groves had gone missing in action after his unit was attacked in North Korea.
"You just live in hopes that everything will turn out okay," said Anderson, "but that's when we got the notice that he had died in a prison camp. The body hadn't been returned or anything, but you're just left in limbo, don't know what to expect."
Years passed, then a breakthrough: positive identification of Groves' remains from DNA the family had provided eight years ago.
"It's been 63 years. It was all unreal, and we never imagined the remains would ever be returned."
With bittersweet raw emotion, then came a hero's welcome home that was long overdue. Anderson says she's eternally grateful for those who lined the streets, as the procession continued from the Gateway Connector down Route 19.
"It was amazing, that people were standing on the street that didn't even know him, but they still wanted to show their respect for him," said Anderson.
"I'm so thankful that our service department didn't just say, 'He's gone' and forget about it. They were willing to go through all of this for any of them that died or were killed in service. So it's good to know people might still have some relatives," said Anderson.
Corporal Groves will be buried Thursday at the National Cemetery in Taylor County with full military honors.
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