Robert Cummings was reported missing in action during the Korean War. (WSMV)
CLARKSVILLE, TN (WSMV) -
Going back to 1950, President Harry Truman was in office, The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show premiered, and All About Eve won Best Picture. That's a long time ago, especially for a man who's waited all these years for closure. Still, he never gave up.
"It's what I prayed for," said Rex Cummings of Clarksville. "Never give up. Never give up."
Sixty-six years. That's how long Cummings has waited. Wife Deborah sat with him on a couch at Neal-Tarpley-Parchman Funeral Home as he finally got a chance to say goodbye to a man he never had the chance to meet.
In the late 1940s, Robert Cummings was a Michigan boy ready to join the Army. He ended up at Fort Campbell. It was a post surrounded by acres of farmland, distant helicopters barely cutting through the quiet at night.
"He enlisted right out of high school," Rex Cummings said. "He was 18. He wanted to serve our country."
1950 brought the beginning of the Korean War. Deployed and now a sergeant, Robert Cummings would write back to wife Melba, asking about their child due in the new year, Rex.
Rex Cummings said one of those letters sent home was dated Nov. 17, 1950.
"I'll never forget what that letter says," he said. "He couldn't wait to get back home. He let my mom know how much he loved her and how he couldn't wait for me to come. He thought they would be home by Christmas. The next 10 days is when he was missing in action."
By July 1953, the war was over, but there were still no answers about Robert Cummings, one of the thousands of Korean War soldiers missing in action.
The family stayed in the area in nearby Clarksville. Years, decades passed. The city grew. Rex Cummings married and had children who became adults in the area themselves.
In the past few months, just before Rex Cummings turned 66, there was a call.
"At first, I couldn't breathe," he said. "When it soaked in, it was just amazing. It had come true."
According to the Defense Prisoners of War Missing in Action Accounting Agency, Robert Cummings was identified in remains returned to the U.S. by North Korea in the early '90s. DPAA also said on Nov. 29, 1950, Robert Cummings' regiment was hit by an ambush near Hajoyang, North Korea. It was after the ambush that he was declared missing in action.
"Sixty-six years of emotions just flooding in," Rex Cummings said. "That was probably the hardest part, but it was also in my heart the most joyous. I knew he was home. Even though I lost my dad, I gained a family. We wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for the military."
Rex Cummings said during those 66 long years, what helped him along were stories of other soldiers finally found after waits spanning decades. Now, he hopes it's his story that can give comfort to someone else in the same way.
"God will answer your prayers," he said. "With everything going on in the world, I knew I was on that list. He got to me. Never, never give up."
Copyright 2017 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.