When Bob Sparks was 3 years old, he woke up scared in the middle of the night and ran to the living room of his childhood home in Cambridge to find his parents. Instead, he found his uncle, Ron Sparks, then about 20 years old and wearing his Army uniform.
That was the first and last time Bob Sparks met his Uncle Ron.
On Feb. 12, 1951, Cpl. Ronald M. Sparks went missing in action in Korea while his unit was clearing a roadblock held by enemy forces, according to a statement from Christine Bongiorno, Arlington’s director of Health and Human Services.
A surviving prisoner of war said that Sparks died while in captivity at POW Camp 1, in Changsong, North Korea, on May 26, 1951.
For 65 years, the Sparks family didn't know where his remains were. When Bob Sparks’ father, Ron's brother, was dying of cancer, he asked Bob to do something for him: bring Ron home.
‘As you know your Uncle Ron was listed as missing in action in Korea and never came home. My mother and father never got over the fact that they couldn’t give him a proper burial,’” his father told him, Bob Sparks wrote in an editorial for the Vineyard Gazette. “So began my solemn mission. … Over the past 11 years I have corresponded with the Army’s Past Conflicts Repatriation Branch, provided them with photographs, family biographies, dental records and most important DNA samples.”
Those DNA samples helped to identify a previously unknown soldier who was buried in Hawaii, according to The Boston Globe. It's unclear how or when Sparks' body was repatriated after the Korean War.
Now, Bob Sparks is laying the Korean War vet to rest back home.
Sparks’ body arrived at Logan Airport on Tuesday. A funeral procession passed his childhood home in Cambridge and continued to the funeral home in Arlington. Graveside services will be held at Woodlawn Cemetery in Everett on Friday.
Sparks was awarded the Bronze Star with V device for valor prior to going missing, and was also a Purple Heart recipient, according to his obituary.
"It has been 65 years, but Cpl. Sparks is finally coming home," said Jeff Chunglo, Arlington's Director of Veterans' Services, in a statement.