Honors for fallen Soldier bring closure decades after war

Members from Kentucky Army National Guard Honor Guard fold the U.S. flag during the repatriation of Cpl. Billie Joe Hash at Worley Cemetery, Corbin, Ky., Aug. 29, 2020. Hash was missing in action for almost 70 years. (National Guard photograph by Spec. Jessica Elbouab)

For years, it was known as The Forgotten War.

In the shadow of World War I and ending before the controversial Vietnam War, the Korean War slipped undercover.

Thirty-seven thousand Americans paid the ultimate price during the war’s three-year span, and many of these fallen heroes never made it home.

For one family from southern Kentucky, the letters, the photos, the tears and the waiting for any news on Cpl. Billie Joe Hash kept the Forgotten War in the forefront.

After missing in action for decades, the Soldier was finally brought home Aug. 26, 2020. In a bevy of flags, surrounded by family, friends, and veterans from several generations, Hash was given a hero’s welcome. On Aug. 29, he was laid to rest at the Worley Cemetery near his hometown of Corbin.

“A lovely lady called me and said, ‘We have the remains of your uncle. Are you the niece of Billie Joe Hash?'” said Peggy Bishop. “I couldn’t speak. I had never been called the niece, and it brought it home and made it real.”

In the early 1950s, Billie Joe Hash joined the military and left Corbin at the age of 18. Hash’s mother, Liza Whitis Hash, affectionally known as Granny, never gave up hope that someday Billie Joe would return home. Granny’s prayers finally came true when they identified and accounted for Hash’s remains on May 27, 2020.

Cpl. Billie Joe Hash (Courtesy photograph)

Hash served in Korea with Headquarters Battery, 57th Field Artillery Battalion. His unit, along with a small allied force, succumbed to an overwhelming blow of enemy forces near North Korea. After a two-week battle, authorities reported Hash missing in action. He was presumed dead on Dec. 31, 1953.

“I would like to say on behalf of all those who have served or are serving, thank you to Billie and his family for their sacrifices,” said Capt. Melissa C. Mattingly, Kentucky National Guard casualty affairs officer.

“A favorite scripture verse reads, ‘Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.’ Thank you, Billie, for being a friend,” she said.

Veteran groups and countless military and civilian organizations supported the family to bring Hash home.

Members of the Kentucky National Guard Honor Guard served the event with plane-side and funeral honors.

The Honor Guard team presented Hash’s youngest sister, Janie Davis, with the flag bearing the weight of her loved one’s sacrifice.

For paying the ultimate price, Hash’s awards include the Purple Heart, a National Defense Service Medal, a Korean Service Medal, and several others.

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