Nearly 70 Years Later, Kaycee Man Killed in Korean War Returns Home
U.S. Army Cpl. DeMaret Marston Kirtley, a Kaycee Native, hasn't been on American soil since sometime in 1950.
A Buffalo High School graduate, Kirtley spent most of his time working on his parents' sheep ranch alongside his family, according to his obituary.
On Feb. 24, 1950, Kirtley joined the United States Army. That July, he returned to Kaycee for the final time. Then, it was off to Korea.
Kirtley was assigned to the 57th Field Artillery Batallion and deployed east of the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea. That winter, Chinese forces overran the Americans in a surprise attack. Kirtley was reported missing in action on Dec. 6, 1950 after American forces withdrew.
After the war, no Americans reported seeing Kirtley as a prisoner of war. The army declared him dead in 1953.
The United Nations, North Korea and China agreed to return each side's dead in 1954. Kirtley was one of 416 Americans who could not be identified after the exchange. He was buried along with the other "unknowns" at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, Hawaii. For more than 60 years, he was designated as X-15900 Operation GLORY.
On May 8, 2017 X-15900 Operation GLORY was disinterred and sent to a laboratory for identification.
Kaycee's long-lost son had finally been found. He was identified last year through DNA testing.
Sixty-nine years later, Kirtley will be buried in his hometown.
On Thursday, a plane carrying Kirtley touched down in Billings. He's currently in Sheridan following a public viewing at Kane Funeral Home.
Saturday, Kirtley will leave Sheridan under the escort of the Wyoming Highway Patrol and local law enforcement agencies who will oversee the final leg of his journey.
A public viewing at the Harrold Jarrard Park Gymnasium in Kaycee is set for 9:30 Saturday. A memorial service will begin at 10 a.m.