Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Mesa Grande soldier's body returned home after 60 years

A Soldier’s Return After 60 Years

Eugene (Mackie) Morelli participated in sports as a teenager in 1946. Photo Courtesy of Rosemary Johnson
By Johnny McDonald - Ramona Home Journal• Tue, Nov 01, 2011

In a long-awaited tribute to a fallen soldier from the Korean War, ceremonies will be conducted for Corporal Eugene (Mackie) Morelli Nov. 5 at Bloomdale/Mesa Chiquita Cemetery.

Remaining family members, the American Indian Veterans Association and the Mesa Grande Band of Diegueno Mission Indians have asked the Patriot Guard Riders to assemble and welcome him home.

Jeff Ahumada, representing the American Indian Veteran Affairs, is organizing the ceremony on behalf of the family.

“We assist families who are not familiar with military burials,” he said. “We will put together a color guard and organize a highway patrol. We also have contacted all veterans organizations.

Steve McRoberts, president of the Patriot Guard, said, “After more than 60 years of being missing in action, to honor him for his faithful and loyal service to his country and for paying the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom is very important.”

McRoberts spent several days compiling information about Morelli’s war record.

Morelli was a member of Company B, 15th Field Artillery Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division Indianheads of the U.S. Army. He was taken as a prisoner of war while fighting the enemy near Hoengsong, South Korea, Feb. 13, 1951, and died at the age of 21 of dysentery. His body was buried in a mass grave on April 30, 1951.

His remains were repatriated from North Korea in 1991 to military control, but remained unidentified at a location in Hawaii until this year when his family was contacted.

Morelli was a member of the Mesa Grande Band of Diegueño Mission Indians in Santa Ysabel.

McRoberts found that the 15th Field Artillery Battalion established two records unequaled by any other artillery unit during the war. For its actions during its three continuous years in some of the bloodiest fighting, the 15th Battalion was awarded 10 campaign streamers, including the Presidential Unit Citation.

The Indianheads of the Fighting 15th had more than paid their dues. On the day of Morelli’s capture, the U.S. Army suffered 426 casualties.

Plans call for the Patriot Guard to meet the plane transporting the body at Lindbergh Field Nov. 4 and escort it to Bonham Brothers & Stewart Mortuary.

On Saturday, Nov. 5, at 8:30 a.m., the community is invited to welcome this young veteran home by standing for the procession as it goes up Ramona’s Main Street, which will be lined with United States flags placed by the Ramona Rotary Club. Burial will follow in the historic Indian burial grounds, located 22 miles though some of San Diego’s most beautiful back country roads.

After the ceremonies, those who attend are welcome to stay for lunch at the Mesa Grande Tribal Hall, 2600 Mesa Grande Rd. For information, call 760-782-3818.

May We Never Forget

“Keeping the Promise,” “Fulfill their Trust,” and “No one left behind” are several of many mottos that refer to the efforts of the Department of Defense to recover those who became missing while serving our nation.

When American personnel remain captive, missing or otherwise unaccounted-for at the conclusion of hostilities, the Department of Defense accounting community becomes the responsible agent for determining their fate, and where possible, recovering them alive or recovering and identifying the remains of the dead.

For those killed-in-action, the community is charged with locating, recovering and identifying their remains. More than 88,000 Americans remain missing from World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War, and the Vietnam War.

The Korean War accounting effort remains a high priority for the U.S. government. Defense Prisoner of War Missing Personnel Office, DPMO, aggressively pursues opportunities to gain access to actual loss sites within North Korea and South Korea.

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