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After 71 years, soldier killed in Korean War buried with Tucson family on Veterans Day

Glenn Collins was listed as missing after Battle of Chosin Reservoir in 1950

The ashes of Korean War casualty Army Pfc. Glenn Collins, killed in the Battle of Chosin Reservoir, were returned to his family in Tucson in a Veterans Day ceremonial burial, 71 years after he was reported missing in the Korean War.

The younger sister of Collins, Lawanda Brothers, said her “heart just melts” seeing her brother reunited with his mother and father, who are buried on both sides of the grave that now holds his ashes.

“He was a great brother,” she said. “He did what he could for the family... I’m happy, really happy seeing this day. It’s been a long time coming.”

Collins enlisted in the Army at the age of 19 alongside his brother, Clarence, who was younger by 14 months. His niece Judy Askenasy said that “Glenn loved his family. He loved his country… he enlisted to support the American values of love of country and he did it to the end.”

He went missing on Dec. 2, 1950, a week after Chinese forces in North Korea launched a surprise assault on U.S. Army and Marine forces who had made it to the Chosin Reservoir in the northern Korean Peninsula after invading from the coasts. The following weeks left more than 12,000 Americans dead, as they tried to retreat through snow and cold that left thousands injured from frostbite.

Collins, then 21 years old, was counted as missing in action days later, and the Army presumed two years later that he had died at Chosin Reservoir. His remains were among a group turned over by North Korea in 2018, but he wasn’t identified until April 2020.

Sisters, nieces and nephews were among the family members attending the internment Thursday, and said that the reunion at South Lawn Cemetery — including the 81 relatives buried there — was “overwhelming” and special.

“After so many years, it’s incredible to see him back,” cousin Mildred Gillmore said. “I’m glad they found him. It’s hard to put into words.”

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Gillmore and Brothers said they only wish Collins' parents and brother Clarence were alive to find out what happened to him, but that they’re happy that he can be with them again.

“Today is like a miracle for us,” Askenasy said. “It’s an answer to prayers of the families after all these many years that he has come back.”

Collins was born in Marshall, Texas, but his family of eight moved to Tucson in 1942, when he was 13 years old. He later moved to Tranquillity, Calif., near Fresno, where Collins and his brother enlisted. He became a member of the Heavy Mortar Company, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division.

Brothers said Collins was “the best brother in the world,” helping her do her arithmetic homework in exchange for cleaning his dishes, vetting boys who wanted to take her on a date and cooking delicious meals for the family, including fudge for the kids while they played outside.

“We had missed him for so many years,” Brothers said. “I’m very, very pleased and happy that he’s going to be returned here.”

More than 7,000 service members remain unaccounted for from the Korean War, the DOD reports. Collins' name is engraved in limestone at the Court of the Missing in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, also known as the “Punchbowl” for its shape. His name will now be marked with a rosette to show he’s been found.

Bennito L. Kelty is TucsonSentinel.com’s IDEA reporter, focusing on Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access stories, and a Report for America corps member supported by readers like you.

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Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.com

Penny Fox, Lawanda Brothers, and Katherine Balentine, watch as the remains of Army Pfc. Glenn Collins are interred during a service at South Lawn Memorial Cemetery. Collins was reported missing in action during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir in winter 1950 during the Korean War.