Wednesday, February 24, 2016

TOP STORY >> Hero remembered

Leader staff writer

“Freedom is wonderful,” said Rev. J.E. Mitchell. “I cannot find enough words, adjectives, to describe just how wonderful it is. Freedom from an aggressive dictator is one of the greatest blessings that God can give us.”

The reverend spoke during a memorial service Saturday at Meadowbrook Memorial Gardens in Beebe for his uncle, Robert Elijah Mitchell, who still remains missing.

Robert Elijah Mitchell joined the Army in November 1949. Less than a year later, on Sept. 6, 1950, he was declared missing in action after his group was sent into battle during the Korean War. His sister, Beth Adams, and family remembered Pfc. Mitchell. It would have been Robert’s 85th birthday.

The Patriot Guard Riders were on hand to unveil a bronze VA marker in his honor.

Mitchell was remembered with full military honors and his sister was presented with a flag and various medals, including presentations from the Patriot Guard, Rolling Thunder and VFW, and a flag flown over the Capitol in Washington.

Mitchell was born Feb. 20, 1931, in Polk County, to Rev. Marvin M. Mitchell and Bessie J. Mitchell, who raised cotton and corn. The family moved to the Oakland Hill Community near Bradford in White County, where Mitchell attended school through the ninth grade. The family moved to Garner, where he would graduate high school on April 28, 1949.

Mtichell left behind his parents; six brothers, Bill, Charley, Sam, Joe, Edward and Edwin; one foster brother, Paul Latourette; three sisters, Bessie Black, Katie Brown, who have both passed, and Beth Mitchell Mason Adams; and many nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.

Mitchell’s remains have yet to be found, but the family wanted to remember him and have a spot ready for when his remains are identified. “My gravesite is there and there is a spot vacant next to it,” Adams said. “I always thought maybe they’d find him.”

Adams was 16 years old when her brother went missing.

“His group was sent in as reinforcements and, when the battle was over, they couldn’t find him,” she said. In 1998, two sets of remains were disinterred from the Punchbowl in Hawaii that were thought to be him, but weren’t. The Punchbowl houses the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, where remains of soldiers from locations around the Pacific Theater are buried.

“This is bigger than I envisioned,” Adams said of the memorial service. “A lot of family is getting together. It’s mainly about my brother. It’s not a fresh death. It’s different than if he had just died.”

“It’s a neat thing to be part of something like this,” Adam’s son, Robert Mason, said of the ceremony. “This is something she’s longed for.”

“It would be nice if they found his remains after this is all done,” said Marvin Mason, another of Adams’ son. “I remember grandpa, grandma and momma talking about it, hoping they would bring him home.”