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60 years after dying in POW camp in Korea, Goodridge man's remains returned to community who never forgot him

Sgt. Peter Johnson of the Minnesota National Guard Honor Guard presents the flag that draped the casket of Cpl. James Sund to his sister Mabel Hayes at Sund's burial Tuesday in Highlander Cemetery near Goodridge. Sund died as a prisoner of war in 1951 in Korea and his remains were recently positively identified. Eric Hylden / Forum Communications Co.

GOODRIDGE, Minn. - As the hearse bearing Army Cpl. James Norman Sund's flag-draped coffin pulled up outside Faith Lutheran Church here more than an hour before Tuesday's funeral was to begin, dozens of people lined the street, waiting.

Veterans in their service caps saluted. Mothers covered their hearts and clutched the hands of children, who themselves clutched small American flags.

Sixty years after he died in a Korean prisoner-of-war camp, Sund returned Tuesday to northwestern Minnesota and was embraced by a family, a community and a region that never forgot him.

He was, the Rev. Robert Dahlen said in his eulogy, "a child of this place ... a man who has been gone a long time."

Later, surrounded by four generations of family members, a host of flag-bearing veterans and riders of the Minnesota Patriot Guard, Sund was laid to rest next to his parents in the tiny, tidy Highlanding Cemetery, a few miles outside Goodridge and not far from the family farm where he grew up.

"It's nice to have him home," said Lee Ann Lund of Thief River Falls, who called James her great-uncle.

Her mother, Gloria Hanestad, also of Thief River Falls, was James' niece, and she grew up hearing the same stories, the same wondering, from her mother and aunt.

"I remember a tall guy with curly reddish hair and a big smile, and how we'd go to the river to fish as a family. My sister thinks I'm remembering photographs, I was so young, but I don't think so."

Sund's father died in 1940, leaving his mother to raise eight children by herself. Five siblings survive, and they all were present at the funeral and burial: sisters Mabel Hayes of Akron, Ohio, Sophie Rambeck of Thief River Falls and Mathilda Sund of Grand Forks, and brothers Martin and Orvin Sund of Thief River Falls.

At the end of the brief ceremony among the tall oaks of Highlanding Cemetery, Sgt. Peter Johnson of the Minnesota National Guard took the U.S. flag that had draped the coffin and presented it to Hayes, 90, Hanestad's mother.

"She always talked about James, and it's been an emotional time for her," Hanestad said. "But she's doing really well today."

Sund was a member of the Army's 2nd Infantry Division when he was taken prisoner while fighting in southern Korea on Dec. 12, 1951. He died while in captivity about 10 weeks later, according to the U.S. Army.

His remains were recovered in 1992 and taken to Army facilities in Hawaii, where in recent years great strides have been made using DNA analysis to identify the remains of service members listed as missing or presumed dead.

Sund's family was notified earlier this year that his remains had been positively identified.

The remains were shipped to Fargo, then to Thief River Falls. On Tuesday, a caravan of law enforcement officers, military escorts and Patriot Guards on motorcycles brought Sund the final 20 miles of his journey home.

Chuck Haga writes for the Grand Forks Herald