After 68 years as an unidentified soldier buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii, St. 1st Class James “Jimmy” Silas Streetman, Jr., of Columbus has come home.
The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, which makes announcements that remains have been identified, did so for Streetman on Sept. 6. It says the Columbus native, who was assigned to Company B, 1st Battalion, 19th Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division, was among those defending the Kum River Line against the Korean People’s Army near the town of Taejon, Korea, when he was killed in action. Streetman was a 20-year old infantryman on his second enlistment. His remains were identified by the U.S. Department of Defense, using DNA analysis and other X-rays, materials and additional information.
Services were held Saturday at the Infantry Chapel on Fort Benning, where members of the Patriot Guard Riders lined the sidewalk to honor Streetman’s casket as soldiers with the 1st Battalion, 19th Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division carried him inside. The 1st Battalion commander, Lt. Col. Lee Wallace, presented Streetman’s family with his awards - the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the Good Conduct Medal and two Purple Hearts.
“The greatest weapon for a soldier is love,” said Chaplain Joel Kelley during chapel services. “Without love, the soul and heart of why we fight falls apart. To lay one’s life down so others might live is what it means to be a soldier.”
Following a 21-gun salute, taps and a bagpipe rendition of “Amazing Grace,” Sharon Streetman Ray, 75, was handed the folded flag that draped her brother’s coffin. After the service, she remembered a time when Jimmy came home for a visit unannounced.
“We never locked the doors, so he just walked right in, and we were all in bed,” she recalled. “He took me out of my bed first. I was five, and I got to sit beside him on the couch. It was just really exciting.”
Streetman Ray said the mental journey for the family to this moment — including the long-held hopes of her mother, Lillian, that her son somehow might be found alive — has been wrought with emotions. It was in 2001 that the mother and daughter submitted DNA testing in hopes that it might turn up a match from remains somewhere, but nothing materialized until last year when additional testing took place. She received an early morning phone call in September to tell her that her brother’s remains had finally been identified. Their mother has since passed away.
“I was so excited, I didn’t know if I would actually live to see this day,” Streetman Ray said. “But I wanted it so bad, and I wanted him to have all the recognition he deserved. And he has had it.”
Several veterans groups joined the Patriot Guard Riders to honor their fallen comrade, including members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion and the Blue Knights motorcycle group.
He was buried by his home regiment in the 1st Battalion, 19th Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division, now based at Fort Benning.
“I want people to embrace him like I do, he was my brother,” Streetman Ray said. “I was little, but I remember him, and I loved him, and I love having him in Georgia dirt.”
Staff writer Tony Adams contributed to this report