Decades after he died in war, Wenatchee man gets hero's welcome

WENATCHEE, Wash. -- A short article in a Wenatchee newspaper told of funeral plans for a forgotten soldier who died a long time ago in a distant land.

Nobody knew who, if anyone, would show up for the funeral. The young soldiers who did come to the Wenatchee cemetery didn't know Edwin Galarneau.

How could they? He'd been missing for 60 years.

Galarneau was injured and captured in Korea in 1950. He suffered, died and was buried in a prisoner of war camp 14 days later. He was just 21 years old.

They found his remains in Korea recently and identified him using the DNA of a half brother who was found in Montana, who Galarneau never even knew existed.

He recently returned home, escorted by Capt. Mark Juntenen.

"You know, the soldiers creed says we'll never leave a fallen comrade and, this is timeless," Juntenen said.

The only way you would know Galarneau was on this earth is a faded scrapbook kept by his mother, along with a few fleeting memories from a couple of cousins who knew him just a little.

He had no brothers or sisters and no old buddies.

It could easily have been a funeral for one of the forgotten, but then an old vet showed up. And then another, and then a woman bearing flowers and a man doing the same.

They didn't know Galarneau, but they knew what he did.

Then came a motorcycle club, rolling in to pay its respects. Then, cousin Doris Whitmore arrived, cradling an old scrapbook.

Car after car pulled in to the cemetery full of people who maybe had sons like Galarneau or soldiers who could have easily been him.

"Well, I'd like to think that if the situation were reversed, he'd be here for me," said John Porter, who spent 22 years in the Navy.

Everyone who showed up to the funeral was attracted by something we don't discuss much any more: Honor.

"He put in his time. He gave his life for the rest of us. Usually they don't have anybody coming, but this time it's different," said David Holcomb.

In all, hundreds of people showed up. Maybe it's a small town thing or it's just a human being thing, but it was a homecoming fit for a hero.

"We are here, gathered together for the final honors for corporal Edwin Galarneau. And it is time. It was a long time coming," the chaplain said.

Galarneau was an only child. His mom worked at a diner, and she was never the same after he disappeared. She died in 1988, never knowing what really happened to her son.

"He was missing for over 60 years, and we felt the need ... a couple hours out of our day isn't that much. It's just, trying to do our best," said 17-year-old Nick Rogers, who is the same age Galarneau was when he joined the National Guard.

"Our hero, Edwin, is home," the chaplain said. "And there's something special about heroes coming home."