MIDDLETOWN, Pa. (WHTM) – Arrivals. Departures. Comings and goings are part of the daily routine at Harrisburg International Airport.
But Clarence Stuck’s body language told you his presence at HIA was anything but “same old, same old.”
Clarence was visibly excited as he waited for one particular passenger on one particular plane.
“Can’t wait to say welcome home. He was a great brother,” Clarence said about a half-hour before the scheduled touchdown of the Delta flight.
Clarence excitement was 65 years in the making and he couldn’t wait for his brother Ken’s return to the Midstate.
Clarence is 83. The Army veteran donned his dress blue uniform and stood outside on the tarmac as the plane taxied from the runway.
Just before his brother came into view, Clarence got a personal greeting from the pilot, “It was my honor to carry your brother home.”
“Thank you, sir,” Clarence replied.
“We got him home,” the pilot reiterated.
“Thank you,” Clarence said choking back tears. “I appreciate it.”
“Oh, Kenny,” Clarence said with a long wail. “Welcome home, buddy.”
Kenneth left Hummelstown 65 years ago for Korea. Six months later, he was killed in action. For more than six decades, Stuck was missing.
“It’s just the unknown,” said Barbara Bowser, Stuck’s oldest niece, who was six when he died. “Where is he? Where was he?” the family wondered.
Bowser remembers the day the U.S. Army officially declared Corporal Kenneth Stuck dead.
“I just remember the sadness; my grandmother, especially. She never got over it,” she said.
Boxes of remains were returned from Korea to the U.S. in 1993. Stuck’s were finally identified a few months ago.
“They said it was all but a 100 percent,” said Philip Stuck, Ken’s nephew and Clarence’s son, himself in the military. “We couldn’t have asked for a better DNA result.”
And Clarence, Ken’s only surviving sibling, couldn’t have had a better role than to escort his brother the final few feet of his long journey.
“As soon as he opened up the door to the hearse,” recalled Philip, who helped his father across the tarmac to the waiting car. “The first thing he said was, ‘Welcome home, brother.’ That will resonate with me forever just because the elation in him knowing his brother is now home.”
The Korean conflict, sandwiched as it was between World War II and Vietnam, is often called The Forgotten War, but the arrival ceremony at HIA proves that those who fought in it are not forgotten 65 years later.
“The feelings are running rampant,” Barbara said. “When that airplane came down the airstrip,” she paused to hold back tears but didn’t quite succeed. “It was just he’s home.”
Corporal Stuck will be buried with full military honors Saturday in the Hummelstown Cemetery. He will be laid to rest alongside his parents.