BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - It’s been 68 years in the making, but now Korean War hero and Mississippi native James P. Alvin Shaw is back home in the Magnolia State to be laid to rest.
The U.S. Army soldier died in a North Korean prison camp in 1951 when he was just 25 years old. His remains were sent to Hawaii three years later and have remained there until now. Shaw was positively identified in 2016, and the search for family began. That search ended on the Gulf Coast.
Family members traveled to New Orleans Wednesday to welcome him home. Now his nephews, James and John Allman, and their wives are leaving to do what they have wanted to do for decades, according to James.
“Bring him back to Mississippi, and that’s what we’ve all been striving for and looking forward to and praying for," he said.
Shaw’s remains were brought off the jet with full military honors. Even airport tarmac workers paid their respects. Members of the honor guard wouldn’t have it any other way.
“For many of us guys in the funeral detail itself, it’s a a great honor," said Staff Sgt. Josue Silva. "Like we are really appreciative of the family to give us this honor for us to carry their loved one back home.”
A token of remembrance was handed over to the family. Then, from the airport, members of the Patriot Guard and Louisiana police provided an escort to the state line.
For Jeffrey O’Keefe Jr. with Bradford-O’Keefe Funeral Home, who is handling the war hero’s arrangements, said standing on the tarmac in New Orleans was a special moment in his career.
“It’s a great sense of pride to be able just to be here, to be a part of this," said O’Keefe. “It’s a service-oriented industry, and to be able to help do something like this for those who have served, it’s kind of hard to put into words, to be honest."
The show of support for the war hero touched the family, including nephew John.
“It’s just amazing how everything has just fallen into place, and we are here today, overjoyed and thankful for this opportunity," John said.
That falling into place took a lot of time and effort.
“It’s a lot of moving pieces to coordinate a movement for Pvt. Shaw and to honor him properly," said Capt. Sean Smith, casualty assistance officer for this mission.
The honors continued into Mississippi, with more Patriot Guard Riders joining the procession into Biloxi, where people stood on the street, hands over their hearts. It was the final move into the funeral home for a man long gone but never forgotten.
Pvt. Shaw will be laid to rest at the Biloxi National Cemetery Friday with full military honors. The service begins at 2:30 p.m. The public is welcome to come by and pay their final respects.