Cpl. Clarence Skates has finally come home.
It took nearly seven decades to find and identify his remains, but his family never gave up hope that he would someday return.
Family paid their respects Wednesday to the Korean War veteran as his flagged-draped casket was escorted off a plane at the Ontario California International Airport. It was the last leg of his journey to his final resting place. He'll be laid to rest on Friday at the Riverside National Cemetery.
"To us it's as though he died today," said Craig "Gunny" Donor, a retired Marine. "We treat him like he's our brother."
Family members watched with tears in their eyes as Skates was carried inside a Riverside funeral home.
"It's a miracle to me that he's home," said Mary Lynch, his sister.
At 17, Skates joined the United States Army. When he turned 18, he was on the front lines of the Korean War. Then he disappeared. Family members had no idea where he was. Until his saw a picture in the Los Angeles Times of American prisoners of war in North Korea.
She immediately spotted him.
"I can't imagine what they put him through," she said. "And I don't even like to think about it because I know it was horrible."
For 67 years Lynch wondered what happened to her little brother. Lynch's daughter says she would talk about him all the time.
"His Purple Heart has been hanging up in my grandmother's house since I can remember," said Jennifer Strand, his niece. "We'd all ask about it and she'd tell us that was her brother and that he was missing."
Lynch's mother died years ago, carrying with her the heartache of losing her son and never having a chance to see the moment he came home. In June, DNA testing confirmed that the remains recovered at a former prison camp in North Korea belonged to Skates.
"It would have been everything to her," Lynch said.