NORTH LITTLE ROCK — Cpl. Marvin E. Omans, U.S. Army Company K, 3rd Battalion, 31st Regimental Combat Team, returned to his family Friday and was laid to rest Monday — 63 years after he left his native Missouri to join his comrades serving in the Korean War on the battlefields of northeast Asia.
Cpl. Omans was reported as missing in action during a mission to secure an important road during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir on Dec. 3, 1950 and was classified as presumed killed in action on Dec. 31, 1953.
Omans was given a graveside service with full military honors Monday morning on the grounds of the Arkansas State Veterans Cemetery.
“Marvin was the baby,” said sister Dorothy Martin, 88, of Pine Bluff. “I was 5 years old when Marvin was born. There were four of us children altogether. Two boys and two girls. Marvin joined the Army at the age of 16 after he finished the eighth grade. He trained at Fort Knox, Ky., and came home for five days before he shipped out. That was the last time that he was home.”
Though many years have come and gone since Martin last saw her baby brother, it is clear that time has done little to alleviate the sense of loss that she feels.
“Having him come home and having the graveside service are a form of closure but it is still sad,” Martin said Monday afternoon. “We got the notification from the military last month that they had found Marvin and that he would be coming home.”
Members of the Patriot Guard Riders stood around the perimeter of the small pavilion where the graveside service for Omans was held Monday morning.
Each standing Rider held an American flag while several dozen more filled the benches in the pavilion.
The Patriot Guard have come to symbolize the respect that many Arkansans have for members of the military and for their families, with the sight and sound of their gleaming motorcycles a virtual certainty at funeral services for fallen soldiers throughout the state.
Rev. Scott Cox of West Pine Bluff Church of God delivered a message built around the sacrificial love shown by Omans and his fellow soldiers in laying down their lives in combat for their nation and for freedom.
“I want us to ask ourselves, what is the character of a man or a woman who would act in such a sacrificial way?” Cox said. “The character of Cpl. Omans also reflects the character of many in our military today.”
Cox said that just as Jesus served others and gave his life away, soldiers like Omans take the initiative and do anything and everything like a faithful servant to get the job done.
“We have seen on television the awfulness of war,” Cox said. “We have read in history books the hardships of the Korean War. However Cpl. Omans as well as many, many American men and women have had to live it. Facing danger and feeling alone with only the memories of home. This takes abundant courage.”
Cox used the biblical story of Joseph — who was taken from the land of Israel to be sold as a slave in Egypt but eventually became part of Pharoah’s inner circle — to frame Omans’ mortal journey.
“When I first heard that Cpl. Omans was returning home I immediately thought of the story of Joseph,” Cox said. “Joseph spent most of his life in a foreign land. He faced trials and triumph. He lived in prisons and palaces. Ultimately Joseph would die in this land but he never lost the hope of returning home. I am sure that the last thoughts of Cpl. Omans as well as many soldiers who have given their lives for their country were of home. I am sure he thought of his mother and father, his brother and sisters.”
Cox said that the word love is a good description of a soldier.
“They fight for the love of country, the love of family, the love of friends, and the love for their brothers and sisters in arms,” Cox said. “Those like Cpl. Omans who have given their lives have actually shown the greatest form of love. Jesus said greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”
Cox said that just as Moses took the bones of Joseph home to his native land of Israel, so too has Omans been returned to his homeland.
“Today Cpl. Omans has been carried home,” Cox said. “He has finally been laid to rest where he belongs. The hope he had of returning has come into fulfillment.”
Upon the conclusion of Cox’s sermon three rifle volleys rang out from a team of three riflemen in honor of Omans followed by the playing of Taps by a lone trumpeter.
The flag detail carefully removed the American flag from the casket and presented it to Dorothy Martin in the traditional trifold style.
Johnie Martin of Pine Bluff is Dorothy Martin’s son and Omans’ nephew.
“We always had hope that this day would come,” Johnie Martin said. “We provided the DNA samples 25 years ago and hoped that some day they would find him.”
Johnie Martin explained that the U.S. Army received 208 large containers from North Korea containing the unidentified remains of hundreds of U.S. servicemen between 1991 and 1994.
Information provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs said that the remains of Cpl. Omans were positively identified by scientists from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory in Hawaii using mitochondrial DNA. The DNA was a match with that of Johnie Martin and his mother, Dorothy Martin.
“We were officially notified six weeks ago that Uncle Marvin had been found and was coming home,” Johnie Martin said. “We’re just very happy that this day finally came.”
Brenda Martin is Johnie Martin’s wife.
“We participated in a number of support groups for families of those who are missing in action,” Brenda Martin said. “We are so happy that he has been found. We were told before that there is always the chance that some of them were taken captive and ended up in China or Russia and will never be accounted for. So we are very grateful to have this closure.”
Johnathan Martin of White Hall is Johnie and Brenda Martin’s son.
“I heard a few stories about him when I was growing up,” Johnathan Martin said. “I knew this day would come sooner or later and we are grateful that it did.”