ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) — In an emotional and healing ceremony, Army Corporal Robert Agard Jr. has now been laid to rest in Elmira — a homecoming over 70 years in the making.
A Buffalo native, Agard was a member of 2nd Platoon, 24th Reconnaissance Company, 24th Infantry Division when he was reported missing in action on July 19, 1950 at the age of 19. In January 1956, he was declared non-recoverable.
In 2012, two of Agard’s family members submitted DNA to the Army, and if it wasn’t for that, this day may have never come. Even though DNA was sent in 2012, Agard wasn’t identified until Sept. 29, 2020.
Dene Kimball, Agard’s senior cousin remembers the moment he got the call from the Army saying they’ve identified Robert.
“I needed a chair real quick, before I went flat on the floor,” Kimball said.
Earlier this week, a police escort helped bring Agard’s remains to the McInerny Funeral Home. This morning he was laid to rest next to his mother, Gertrude.
“I mean — he’s home. It’s just so incredible, miraculous and special. We’re just very very thankful,” Kimball said.
“Welcome home” was a phrase heard over and over again this morning by many family members and friends.
Kimball told 18 News that Agard was six years older than him, joining the military at 17 years old. He continued, saying, “for 70 years we never knew what happened to him.”
“Dene called me up and told me that the army had contacted him and that we were going to be able to lay him to rest with his mother in the cemetery in Elmira, which is just one of the most wonderful things that ever happened,” Wendy Kimble-Dugin, Agard’s first cousin, said.
Kimble-Dugin was one of the family members to submit a swab of her DNA that was used to bring him home. Even though it’s been 70 years, she was happy Robert was able to get a proper funeral and be laid to rest with his mother.
Agard’s name is on the Courts of the Missing at the Punchbowl, a rosette will now be placed next to his name, indicating he has been found.