Monterey County Herald (CA)
October 20, 2006
Finding and losing his brother on the same day Carmel man learned of sibling after Army identified remains
By KEVIN HOWE, Herald Staff Writer
William Sisk of Carmel didn't learn that he had a long-lost brother until he was 75 years old.
He never met his older half-brother, Homer Sisk, never knew of his existence, until he was told several months ago by Army authorities that his brother's remains had been found in a mass grave in a North Korean farmer's field in 2000 and had been identified after extensive laboratory tests.
The brothers were born six months apart in the same year, Sisk said, but were raised apart. He had no other siblings, and his parents never mentioned Homer Sisk.
He and his family attended his brother's funeral at Arlington National Cemetery earlier this week.
"I felt I wanted to do what was right by a brother I really didn't know," he said.
Army authorities said Army Cpl. Homer L. Sisk, 20, enlisted from Ducor, near Porterville, and was serving with the Army's 1st Cavalry Division, 8th Cavalry Regiment, when the unit was attacked by Chinese Communist forces near Unsan, North Korea, on the nights of Nov. 1 and Nov. 2, 1950.
During the battle, Sisk and nearly 400 other men from the 8th Cavalry Regiment were declared missing or killed in action, the Army said.
In 2000, a joint U.S.-North Korean team, led by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, interviewed a North Korean farmer living near Unsan. The farmer said he uncovered human remains while taking part in land reclamation work. He said he believed they were those of a U.S. soldier.
The team excavated the burial site and uncovered the remains for at least 10 people, the Army reported, along with other items and identification tags, including Sisk's.
The remains were taken to Hickham Air Force Base, Hawaii, where scientists from the Joint Accounting Command and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used mitochondrial DNA and dental comparisons to identify the remains.
Sisk was one of eight men identified. The brothers' parents are dead, and a genealogical search showed William Sisk as Homer Sisk's only living next of kin.
Homer Sisk was buried Tuesday at Arlington.
His brother said he, his wife, his oldest daughter, Karen Reilly of Lafayette, and his oldest son, Navy Reserve Capt. Richard Sisk of Gilbert, Ariz., attended the ceremony.
"Closure is a word that is sort of bounced around a lot, but I think there was some there for me," he said. "I feel I was the lucky one, and he had a pretty rough deal. He didn't have a real good life, and he paid the ultimate price."
He and his family have become "very interested" in Homer Sisk's history, Sisk said, "and we're still finding out more."
His brother was a private first class when he went missing, Sisk said, and was promoted to corporal while he was listed as missing.
William Sisk served in Korea in 1953 after attending officer candidate school and engineer school.
"We could have met at Fort Ord, him going and me coming," he said, if they'd known one another then.
At Arlington, "the people were just so wonderful to us," Sisk said. An Army sergeant first class picked them up at the airport, an Army chaplain conducted the service, and an honor guard fired the traditional three volleys, followed by a bugler playing "Taps."
Sisk said he was given his brother's casket flag and medals -- including a Purple Heart, Combat Infantryman's Badge, campaign medals and unit citations -- and his dog tags.
"They told me there are about 2,500 missing in action from the Korean War from California," he said, "and they've identified about two dozen of those soldiers."