67 years later, local veteran’s family learns what happened to their father, a prisoner of war

LEAVENWORTH, Ks. -- Sophia Hicks has spent the last 67 years waiting to bury her father, a World War II and Korean War veteran.

On Friday, Hicks was able to have the service her father, Sgt. First Class Hershel Tate, and family deserved.

"It`s like a brick on my back has just gotten knocked off," Hicks said.

Sgt. First Class Hershel Tate

She's spent almost seven decades searching to know what happened to her father after he was sent overseas to fight in the Korean War. Unsure if he was killed in action or survived the war and started a new life, she's worked tirelessly for answers to questions she has to ponder since she was a teenager.

"The worst is when I got older, enough to get a hold of the military, I would call Washington D.C. or whoever to ask about my dad, and they said if they ever heard anything, they`d let us know and then they`d hang up. Well, I keep on calling,' Hicks said.

Her relentlessness and persistence was passed down to her daughter, Angie Meister. Meister never had a chance to meet her grandfather but knew how hard her mother worked in order for dozens of family and friends to be able to pay their respects at the Leavenworth National Cemetery.

"It`s very special. It`s very heart warming. Finally my mom gets that closure that she`s been wanting," Meister said.

After years of searching, Tate's family confirmed he was killed in 1951 while he was a prisoner of war in Korea. It's news that came as a relief to Tate's last living child.

"It was just too much for an old hillbilly that don`t have much of an education. But it was such a blessing to just hear them when they said my dad was dead. That`s when I really realized he was dead. His body was over there in a ravine and he is with all these other guys and that`s all they could really tell us," Hicks said.

Hicks and Meister don't know if they'll ever recover his body, but the burden of years of searching for answers was laid to rest -- much to the relief of those that loved Tate most.

"Just knowing my mom has gotten closure and finally something was done," Meister said.

On Friday, Tate's family celebrated his life at a funeral service at Leavenworth National Cemetery.

"Everybody that showed up, and I`m sure there were some people that came that I didn't even know and that was a blessing. Everybody wanting to be a part of this because he died not only for me or you but he died for all of us," Hicks said.

More than 7,800 soldiers are missing from the Korean War.