Memorial service pays special honor to one Korean War soldier from Fishtown

    Monday’s ceremony honoring soldiers at Philadelphia’s Korean War Memorial had special meaning for the family of Cpl. Robert Higgins.

    The young Fishtown native joined the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division around the time of the Korean War. In 1951, he was captured in one of the bloodiest battles of that conflict.  His remains were never found; his parents died without knowing what had happened to him.

    Higgins’ niece, Marge Kelly, says her uncle, Higgins’ brother and a Marine himself, went to Korea to try and find him shortly thereafter.

    No luck.

    “It was all unknowing. We just didn’t know,” she says. “The not knowing is worse to me.”

    Last year, six decades later, Higgins’ remains were identified, thanks to Army DNA testing that matched with Higgins’ nephew (Kelly’s brother).

    His remains were returned and he was buried with full military honors in Bucks County.

    “My gosh, it’s a roller coaster of emotions,” says another of Higgins’ nieces, Aggie Kelly.

    During Monday’s Korean War memorial ceremony at Penn’s Landing, Higgins received special mention, and the family placed a wreath on the memorial.

    “It’s closure for us, and it’s wonderful to see him being memorialized this way,” Aggie Kelly said. “It’s well deserved for all of them — all of them.”

    Soon, the letters M-I-A next to Higgins’ name on the memorial will be removed and replaced with P-O-W.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.