Last Updated: 7:57 am | Sunday, July 22, 2007
Closure sought for long-time MIA cases
Field meetings update families, collect DNA samples

Army Cpl. Daniel Alford of Covington went missing in action while lost on night patrol along the 38th parallel in Korea on Nov. 26, 1951.

His brother Jack Alford, of Villa Hills, is the last of the soldier's immediate family locally. A half-century later, he still longs for closure.

National Guardsman Maj. Robert Ormond served in the 147th Infantry. During World War II, he fought in the battle for Guadalcanal before going missing in action in Korea.

Dennis Ormond of Clifton Heights was 3 when his father vanished.

"I don't remember him. I only know the stories." Ormond sighs. "It's trite to say closure, but I'd love to see him come home."

For the descendants of Capt. Mainerd Sorensen, who lost his life at Chosin Reservoir, their mission has been to find his remains and have them returned to the United States. The family can trace its military service to the Revolutionary War, including the Air Force, Marines and Navy.

"We don't leave a fallen comrade," says granddaughter Storey Smith, now of Cheviot.

While the Korean War is a memory for most people, the sense of loss doesn't fade for the families of more than 8,100 service people still unaccounted for.

Alford, Ormond and Smith were among about 170 family members from eight Midwest states who spent Saturday at a Department of Defense briefing in the Cincinnati area. The event updated the families about efforts to find and identify the missing from World War II, Korea, the Cold War and Vietnam.

This was the first Cincinnati field visit and only the fourth in Ohio since the field visits began in 1995. Family members heard from forensics experts and archival researchers and met with individual case officers.

The Department of Defense is excited about breakthroughs in DNA testing. Mitochondrial DNA makes it possible to identify even ancient remains. So at the daylong session, family members were urged several times to give DNA samples, collected by mouth swab.

Officials said that 10 cases among those families present Saturday were no more than a DNA test away from identification. None of those cases included Alford, Ormond or Sorensen.

Alford and Ormond DNA is stored. Sorensen's family is still waiting for the U.S. government to get into the area where he was lost.

Diplomacy with North Korea remains delicate, Smith points out. The headlines are about nuclear armament and world economy, "but this is a sideline of the diplomatic effort," she says.

Alford, Ormond and Smith are old hands at Defense briefings. Their families attend updates regularly in Washington, D.C. They also follow the information trail online as well as news reports about North Korea.

Alford was hoping for updates - "When are they going back to where they haven't looked before?" - and hoping to meet the families of other members of his brother's 17th Infantry Division, and even survivors.

A dozen men did come back from that patrol. Meetings have happened before, but not this time.

Even without breakthrough information, families say the briefings make them feel connected. " 'Connection' isn't a big enough word," Smith says.

Beyond the support network of MIA families, Smith says, she also values the "human-to-human" contact with the search teams that include geologists and forensic anthropologists.

Smith's nephew Christian Sorensen of Cheviot may be about to become a part of that team. Mainerd Sorensen's great-grandson joined the Air Force seven years ago and has been training ever since as a pilot who can fly the search-team missions.