OGDEN — With the smell of gun powder lingering in the air and the sound of “Taps” blown respectfully from a bugle, more than 100 people gathered Saturday to honor a man that most of them had never met.
Army Lt. Jack Saunders finally returned home after being away for 60 years and sacrificing his life for his country.
The man who went missing in action on Feb. 12, 1951, during the Korean War and later died as a prisoner of war was laid to rest at Aultorest Memorial Park. The person who knew him the best said he would have enjoyed the service.
“He would have been flabbergasted,” said Saunders’ sister, Helen Palmer, 92, of Ogden. “I knocked on the casket thinking he might knock back.”
Saunders’ remains had been wrapped in an Army blanket and placed in a casket, which was buried next to his wife, LaRelle, who passed away in November. Her death came a month after the family received news that Saunders’ remains had been identified.
“My mom would have been proud,” said Saunders’ daughter, Kim Padelsky, of Clearfield. “She was finally at peace (when she heard he had been identified). They didn’t have a lot of years together, so she was happy and relieved.”
Even though LaRelle eventually remarried, Padelsky said that Saunders was her mother’s true love. Soon, a headstone with both their names will grace the grave site.
“They’re together,” said Padelsky, who went to Hawaii to accompany her father’s remains to Utah. “The closest they’ve been in all those years.”
During the service, Debbie Findlay, Saunders’ granddaughter, read a tribute and family members were given the opportunity to share their memories of Saunders.
Neil Saunders does not remember much about his Uncle Jack, except that at family gatherings the 6-foot-4 man would lift Neil’s father, Delroy, into the air and ask how his little brother was doing.
Saunders was born in Clearfield on Feb. 5, 1924. He lived in Ogden, graduated from Logan High School and attended Weber Academy (now Weber State University) in Ogden. He married LaRelle in 1946 following service in World War II. He later joined the Army Reserves and was called back into service during the Korean War.
The Army handled arrangements for the service with full military honors including a full seven-man squad that fired a 21-gun salute. Close to 100 Patriot Guard Riders and ex-military men and women arrived on their motorcycles, carrying American flags.