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Remains of Korean War POW finally home

Cpl. Billy Joe Butler to be buried Friday in Kerrville

SAN ANTONIO – Watching the arrival of his remains at San Antonio International Airport, Army Cpl. Billy Joe Butler's family members stood with their hands over their hearts. 

Nearby were a U.S. Army Honor Guard, airport employees and several Kerr County Sheriff's deputies saluting on the tarmac to finally bring home the young man who died at age 20 in a North Korean prisoner of war camp.

"It's a homecoming and a celebration. It's been a long time in coming," said Barbara Pagel, Butler's niece. 

According to his obituary, Butler was taken prisoner in January 1951, only to die weeks later. Initially told he was missing in action, his family wasn't told of his death until 1953.

They also were notified the remains of their son would not be returned.

Yet Butler is finally home more than half a century later.

Butler's remains were among 55 presumed Americans turned over after President Trump's 2018 summit with Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

"We have been just so blessed by what the Army has done for us, for what President Trump did by negotiating and bringing these fellas home," Pagel said.

Pagel said her mother, who was Butler's oldest sister, is turning 94 this year.

"So it's been a blessing," Pagel said. 

Stephanie Beach, Cpl. Butler's great niece, said his return meant so much to her grandfather, his brother.

"I'm kind of standing in his place because he couldn't be here today," Beach said. 

Arrangements are being handled by Kerrville Funeral Home. 

Viewing is from 5-7 p.m. Thursday and funeral services will be at 10 a.m. Friday at First United Methodist Church in Kerrville, followed by burial with full military honors at Nichols Cemetery in Kerrville. 


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