AMC Band bids farewell to fallen Korean War hero
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- In the 1950s, a young man from Cullman, Alabama, enlisted as a combat engineer and shipped off to fight in the Korean War. More than 60 years later, Cpl. Larry Dunn finally returned home Sept. 14, 2016, and the Army Materiel Command Band was there to greet him.
Dunn, three weeks shy of 19, was listed as "missing in action" Dec. 1, 1950, when his unit, Company B, 2nd Engineer Combat Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division, was clearing roads and mines of debris near Sonchu, North Korea, and was attacked.
According to the DOD POW/MIA Accounting Agency, he was declared dead Dec. 31, 1953. In August 2015, advances in DNA testing led to positive identification of Dunn's remains.
The AMC Band routinely provides bugler support for memorials and funerals by request. Sgt. James Old, an instrumentalist, bugle section noncommissioned officer in charge and an operations NCO, was set to play the trumpet during Dunn's funeral, Sept. 17, 2016.
Old called the funeral director, Doug Williams, to ensure the plan was still in place. Williams said it was, but that the airplane carrying Dunn's remains would not land at the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport, as previously planned. Instead, the plane would land at Huntsville International Airport the next morning, and the casket would then travel by hearse to the funeral home in Cullman to lie in state prior to the funeral.
Old sprang into action. With just a few hours' lead time, he talked with 1st Sgt. Daniel Shannon and Chief Warrant Officer 3 James Bettencourt, the band's commander, who readily agreed to support a band contingent to greet the plane alongside a National Guard honor detail from Fort Rucker and Dunn's loved ones.
"I am tremendously proud of the AMC Band, who responded without hesitation, going above and beyond normal requirements, to honor the sacrifice Corporal Dunn made in service to our country more than a half-century ago," said AMC Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Allan Elliott. Elliott attended the ramp ceremony and met Dunn's family.
It was the first of its type for Old, but likely not his last.
"Other members of the band have had varying amounts of experience with ceremonies like this. It was very interesting to do a service like that for somebody who died 66 years ago. It's a very emotional thing, I think, for the Cullman community and for this area of the state," Old said.
The band played "Nearer my God to Thee" as the casket came down the ramp, until it was loaded into the hearse and military in attendance dropped their salutes.
"The bittersweet moment when honors were rendered is a memory his family will never forget, and neither will we," Elliott said.
The Fort Rucker Alabama Casualty Assistance Center is responsible for the majority of counties in Alabama, including Cullman County and Madison County, where the AMC Band is located on Redstone Arsenal. The remaining 11 counties are served by the CAC at Fort Benning, Georgia.
AMC Band support for funerals is handled by the CAC, and memorial service requests may be submitted to the AMC Band directly by calling 256-450-8106.