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Korean War vet gets final salute

Published: Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013 2:06 p.m. CST • Updated: Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013 11:20 p.m. CST
Caption
(Kyle Grillot - kgrillot@shawmedia.com )
Cpl. Donald Victor MacLean’s twin sister Donna Mitchell is helped by her son's Rikki (right) and Bill as she takes a moment to place flowers on her brother's casket Saturday.

CARY – With the flag of the country her brother died to defend in her arms and a Purple Heart pinned to her chest, Donna Mitchell could rest.

More than 100 people came out to Windridge Memorial Park Cemetery in Cary Saturday to honor Mitchell's brother, Cpl. Donald Victor MacLean, who was buried with full military honors for his sacrifice in the Korean War.

After 63 years, Mitchell said it was comforting to have her twin brother back where he belongs.

"The closure is here now," Mitchell said after the ceremony as she was surrounded by family. "He's home."

MacLean’s remains were identified this year after new technology made it possible to match him with the remains of one of about 800 unidentified servicemen buried in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu.

He arrived Wednesday at O’Hare International Airport, and accompanied by the U.S. Army, Illinois Patriot Guard, Rolling Thunder Illinois, the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office, Illinois State Police and McHenry police, the hearse carrying his remains looped through McHenry.

Bill Cheatham, who took part in the 21-gun salute, was one of more than a dozen members from the Polish Legion of American Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion who contributed to the ceremony.

Cheatham said it was an honor to be a part of the memorial and was hopeful other families of unidentified veterans could find the same solace.

"I'm very glad this fallen comrade was able to come home," Cheatham said. "There are still so many unknown yet to be identified."

Cindy Graff, of Island Lake, was one of the many unrelated attendees at the ceremony who came to pay their respects to MacLean. Graff said her father was a Korean War veteran and she wanted to see a full military honor burial in person.

"I do military genealogy in my family, but I've never seen full military honors," she said. "I think it's a great way to remember those who we should never forget."

Rikki Mitchell, the oldest son of Donna Mitchell, said the ceremony provided closure and a chance to reunite with family members who have heard plenty of stories of his uncle's passion for the Army.

Rikki Mitchell said it was a fitting end to an extraordinary life.

"I've heard about him since I was 5 years old," he said. "This is the last thing (Donna Mitchell) wanted to do before she was gone, and I think it was great we could all be here."

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