Since his death in 1951, Sgt. Bernard Fisher has roamed half the globe.
Killed while repositioning in a delaying maneuver against a fierce enemy attack near Seoul, South Korea, Fisher’s remains initially rested somewhere in the field for six months, until a a U.S. unit recovered remains of four men. Unidentified, they were transferred to Tanggok, South Korea, then to Japan, then to Hawaii.
For all that time, Fisher, a Wilkes-Barre native with a squared jaw and curved-up coif, remained Missing in Action and presumed dead. It wasn’t until last year, following one more exhumation, that the government determined it had found Fisher, and could give him a final burial.
That burial occurred July 27, with the Army relaying a family request to be left alone in their grief. I wrote all this in a July 12 story.
After the story ran, Sgt. Fisher’s brother and sister-in-law, Ken and Marina Fisher, stopped by the paper to thank me for the coverage, to share a few additional insights about Sgt. Fisher and to promise an update after the burial. They fulfilled that promise with a letter, a photo and a phone call.
Marina said people who graduated from St. Mary’s High School with Sgt. Fisher had joined forces and arranged to have a Catholic Mass held in his name at St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Church, Wilkes-Barre.
During the Aug. 24 Mass they presented an American Flag to the church, complete with a brass stand and plaque that commemorates Sgt. Fisher, Class of ‘47.
Marina also offered a poem she wrote, an ode to a man who died at the age of 21, and spent nearly triple that time wending his way to a final, fitting resting place in Arlington National Cemetery.
Her homage concludes with a quote from first-century Roman poet Horace. It’s the title and most famous line of an ode written to spur fellow citizens to defend Rome.
The line fell out of favor after the horrors of World War I, particularly after Wilfred Owen used it mockingly in his own poem about gas attacks in the trenches, prefacing Horace’s line with “The old lie: …”
But it seems clear that Horace’s original intent truly applies here. Sgt. Fisher did not merely die defending fellow soldiers and his country. He died in a war that country never officially declared. For decades he was not officially dead, his remains found but deemed unidentifiable, his family denied true closure.
Sgt. Bernard Fisher’s brief life, heroic death and epic journey home make him a truly exceptional defender of our freedoms.
The Final Homecoming
On a sultry summer day in Arlington, Virginia, The funeral cortege pauses. Rising above the cemetery entrance are statues of eagles, reminiscent of our own Market Street Bridge.
A long way and the Honor Guard, with utmost precision, transfers the flag-draped casket to caisson.
Thirty-eight family members begin the walk behind the warrior, about to arrive at his final resting place. Sixty-two years later, after being declared Missing in Action on January 1, 1951, at the age of 21, Sgt. Bernard J. Fisher comes home via a very circuitous route.
The Army band plays a Catholic hymn and the chaplain says prayers committing his body to the earth. The flag is folded and presented to a family member along with other tributes.
Bernie, you fought the good fight; you finished the race; and you will be awarded the prize, which the Lord will give you on the last day.
Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori
“It is sweet and right to die for your country.”
Mark Guydish, a reporter for The Times Leader, can be reached at 829-7161 or email mguydish@timesleader com.