ELGIN, OK (KSWO) - More than 60 years after being taken prisoner in the Korean War, an American hero and Oklahoma native was finally laid to rest Friday morning.
In 1950, Sergeant First Class Alfred Bensinger Jr. was taken prisoner while serving our country in Korea. Friday, he finally got the hero's welcome home he deserves. Several members of his family were on hand at Fort Sill National Cemetery in Elgin as he received a burial with full military honors
"Growing up, I never realized that there was any possibility of him coming home. I thought for sure it would never happen. I never dreamed it would happen," said Bensinger's son, Gary Clayton.
Bensinger was fighting alongside the 2nd Engineer Battalion during the battle of Kunu-Ri in Korea. When a withdrawal order was given, Bensinger and his battalion held off an oncoming assault long enough for the other troops to safely evacuate.
Unfortunately, that left no time for them to escape. So, they soaked all of their equipment in gasoline and set it on fire to prevent the Chinese from capturing it as possible war trophies. Over 700 troops were killed or taken as prisoners of war, including Bensinger. Several American POWs who returned to America reported that Bensinger died while a prisoner in January of 1951.
Bensinger was classified as a Prisoner of War, Missing in Action until his remains were finally identified in July of 2017. They made their way back to Oklahoma earlier this week and Friday, Bensinger's only son, his sister, who is in her 90s, and several other family members were finally able to see him laid to rest.
"Having spent all these decades never expecting him to come back and then having him come back has just been an amazing process," Clayton said.
Despite never knowing him, Clayton said his father has been right there with him as he has made several important decisions in his life. Clayton was asked to choose a day to lay his father to rest. He chose February 16, which would have been his 93rd birthday. He said this whole process has reminded him of the great sacrifices so many of our nation's bravest men and women have made.
"The freedom that we have today, due to men like him that are willing to stand up and fight for it all around the world. I'm very grateful for him and all of his fallen comrades too," Clayton said.
Bensinger also served our country in World War Two. For his service, he received the Purple Heart, Bronze Star, Prisoner of War Medal and several other prestigious awards.