SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) - The remains of a San Francisco solider finally returned home from war, 67 years later.
PCF James J. Leonard Jr. was killed in action during the first few days of the Korean War, but his body was not recovered until spring of 2017.
On Sunday, the U.S. Army brought Leonard home to his family.
"He was only 22 years old. He had his whole life ahead of him,” said 92-year-old James Hart, Leonard’s cousin and the last family member to remember him as a child and young man.
Leonard grew up in San Francisco. He played the trumpet in the Polytechnic High School band and was on the track team.
67 years later, PFC James J. Leonard Jr. returns home. He went missing during the Korean War and his body recently recovered. Thank you for your service, James. #USArmy #rememberthefallen .@KTVU pic.twitter.com/SzCSw7yhrv— Leigh Martinez (@LeighMartinezTV) January 21, 2018
"I found from my other cousins, I wasn't alive when he was, that he was an outgoing person and fun to be around,” said second cousin Mike Hart.
"Oh he was just like myself, a very nice guy,” James Hart laughed.
Leonard joined the Army at 22, and was sent to defend the village of Yongdong, South Korea on July 20, 1950. It’s believed that just five days later, Leonard was killed in action when the Korean People’s Army units began attacking American defenses and took control of Yongdong.
"From what I understand, he was caught behind the lines and he got hit, a slug in him, and that was it,” said James Hart.
In June 1952, the 392nd Quartermaster Graves Registration Company searched the area, but Leonard’s body was never found.
"[We thought] can’t they find him after that many years?” said James Hart. “They finally did, though. They never gave up hope. We appreciate that."
In the spring of 2017, a road construction crew in Yongdong found Leonard’s teeth, an American-made canteen, and the sole of his size ten army boots. The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency laboratory in Hawaii used dental and anthropological analysis to identify the remains as belonging to Leonard. The military bestowed the Purple Heart metal to him posthumously when they notified the Hart family that he had been found.
"It was hard, very hard,” James Hart said of finally having his cousin returned to San Francisco.
Leonard’s sister Eleanor died at just 10 years old. His parents passed away years ago. He will be given a full military burial with relatives from the Bay Area, Los Angeles, and Nevada attending. Leonard will be buried alongside his family at the Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma on Tuesday.