Ceremony to Remember Ivan Roberts - Today at 11:00 AM
Posted: Jun 04, 2018
Posted May 27, 2018 at 7:29 PMUpdated May 27, 2018 at 7:29 PM
Pfc. Ivan Roberts went missing during the Korean War, but the search for his body is ongoing.
The only thing Annette Sello remembers about Pfc. Ivan Roberts is when he went missing.
Sello was 6 when Roberts went missing in action during the Korean War. Her father, Hubert Roberts Sr., helped raise Ivan with the boy’s aunt, Lessie Mae Utley Roberts.
“When he would return home from trips to town my mother would ask him, ‘Is there any word from (Ivan)?’ and he would of course say no,” Sello said. “That’s the sad part that I remember. I will just always remember that.”
A memorial service honoring Roberts will be held June 4 at the Burke County Veterans Memorial near the courthouse. Sixty-six years after his disappearance, his name is the 72nd to be engraved in the monument marking veterans who have died, but the only one accompanied by a bronze marker that indicates he is missing in action. At the service, people will lay roses at the foot of the monument, and Fort Gordon will send an honor guard.
“We just feel that if he’s going to be remembered, we have to do it now because we are the older ones who have any recollections of even people speaking about it,” Sello said. “We just want to see his name on the casualties monument so he can be remembered and honored because we feel that he deserves that for such an ultimate sacrifice.”
Roberts went missing Nov. 5, 1951, and a presumptive finding of death was filed Dec. 31, 1953. He was part of A Company, 5th Calvary Regiment, 1st Calvary Division. At the time he went MIA, A Company was attacking Chinese positions in North Korea.
The 23-year-old was an only child, raised by his aunt and her husband in Sardis, Ga., and then by his mother and maternal grandmother when his aunt died. He enlisted in the Army on March 21, 1951.
He is suspected to have gone missing about 400 meters into the North Korean side of the demilitarized zone. Relations between the U.S. and North Korea have made attempts to retrieve remains difficult.
Pfc. Ivan Roberts received several awards for his service, including the Purple Heart, Combat Infantryman Badge and the United Nations Service Medal. The memorial service for Roberts will be held at the Burke County Courthouse in Waynesboro at 11 a.m. June 4.
“When the Korean War was over and the POWs came back, he was nowhere to be found,” said Walton “Bud” North, who helped to organize the memorial service for Roberts. “At that time he didn’t show up on a POW list; that means he didn’t die as a POW.”
North is a local veteran and sergeant-at-arms with American Legion Post 120. He worked with Roberts’ relatives to arrange the event.
“I’ll take on anything that can help a veteran of Burke County, or any veteran,” North said. “It’s just all about serving our veterans.”
In 2012, Sello said, the family was asked to give DNA samples to the Army to determine whether Ivan’s remains had been found. Then in February, Sello said, the family was invited to a program in Florida where the Army updated them on the status of his remains. While they haven’t yet been found, his relatives still have hope.
Pat Roberts, whose husband Wilbert is the son of the late Hubert Roberts Sr., said the family is thankful that Ivan will be recognized in his home county alongside other men and women who have served their country.
“We have never given up hope for securing the remains,” Roberts said. “We still have that hope, so this service is not a complete closure, but it’s certainly the end of one segment of his military service, and so after this we can move forward to just continuing to hope beyond hope for the location of his remains.”
Without his remains, Emma Brantley said there isn’t necessarily a sense of closure, but that it is good to honor his name. Brantley, whose great-aunt Lessie Mae Utley Roberts helped raise Ivan, said the situation is sad for her, since she has been unable to find out much information about her second cousin.
“Until they identify him, there really isn’t too much closure,” she said.
That the Army hasn’t stopped looking is appreciated by Wilbert Roberts.
“They say we have the greatest army of any armed service in the world, and that’s part of it,” Roberts said. “You will never be forgotten or completely written off. Somebody’s always looking.”
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