Pentagon gives family dog tag found in remains returned by North Korea

Pentagon gives family dog tag found in remains returned by North Korea
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The sons of a Korean War soldier received Wednesday their father’s dog tag that was included in a set of 55 caskets North Korea returned recently to the United States.

The dog tag belonged to Master Sgt. Charles Hobert McDaniel, a U.S. Army medic from Indiana, officials announced Wednesday.

“I sat there, and I cried for a while and took a while to compose myself,” McDaniel’s eldest son, Charles McDaniel Jr., said of his reaction when he was notified his father’s dog tag was found. “We’re just overwhelmed, I am, that of all of these boxes that came back and out of all of these thousands of people that are [missing], we’re the only ones that have certitude.”

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The dog tag was returned to Charles McDaniel Jr. and his younger brother Larry McDaniel during a press conference in Arlington, Va., where officials gave an update on the status of the repatriated remains from North Korea.

Officials have cautioned that the dog tag’s inclusion does not mean McDaniel’s remains are among those returned by North Korea. At the end of the press conference, Larry McDaniel submitted to a DNA swab test to determine if his father’s remains are in the group.

Late last month, Pyongyang returned the 55 boxes of remains believed to be of U.S. troops who served in the Korean War as part of the agreement President TrumpDonald John TrumpAl Gore: Trump has had 'less of an impact on environment so far than I feared' Trump claims tapes of him saying the 'n-word' don't exist Trump wanted to require staffers to get permission before writing books: report MORE and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made at their summit in Singapore.

Administration officials have pointed to the return of the remains as a sign North Korea is living up to its commitments, even as reports continue to surface casting doubt on the sincerity of its pledge to denuclearize.

Officials from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) have said initial analysis indicates the remains are of U.S. service members from the Korean War as believed.

The Pentagon estimates there are about 7,700 unaccounted-for Americans who fought in the war, remains for about 5,300 of whom are believed to be in North Korea.

On Wednesday, officials said it’s still too early to say how many people’s remains are in the 55 caskets, adding it may take a few months to know better.

The remains were moderately-to-poorly preserved, but are consistent with previously recovered remains from the Korean Peninsula in which DNA was able to be analyzed, said John Byrd, the laboratory director of DPAA.

Byrd could not say whether the remains in the box where McDaniel’s dog tag was found will be prioritized for testing.

“But I can tell you that we’re going to look very carefully at the remains that were boxed with the dog tag to see if it’s plausible that the remains could be the individual whose name was on the dog tag,” he said. “If it looked plausible than that might be a reason why we would prioritize the testing in that case, but it’s a little bit early for us to know which ones we would prioritize amongst the 55 boxes.”

McDaniel was a member of the 8th Cavalry Regiment's Medical Company and was believed to have been killed during a surprise attack by Chinese forces in October 1950.

Charles McDaniel Jr. described his father as “an Army guy” who “liked ice cream” and “always watched his weight,” but said he was too young when his father died to have many more memories than that.

Larry McDaniel, meanwhile, said he has no memory of his father. 

“To me this is a big picture thing,” Larry McDaniel said. “I mean I’m proud that my father was extremely patriotic, loved the country to death, that he was able to dedicate his entire life for the country without hesitation. But the thing is he was one of thousands of guys that did it, and I don’t think the fact that we found his dog tag should overshadow any of that.”