When we hit the Greenwood city limits, I got on the radio, and I said, ‘Welcome home,’” says Roger Barrett.
Barrett, Mississippi state captain of the Patriot Guard Riders, was among the procession of vehicles, law enforcement and motorcycles that escorted the remains of U.S. Army Cpl. Joe T. Avant from a Jackson airport to Greenwood Delta Funeral Home. With the sound of sirens as it made its way down U.S. 82, the procession arrived in Greenwood at about 1 p.m. Wednesday.
Funeral services with full military honors for Avant will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at North Greenwood Baptist Church, with interment in Odd Fellows Cemetery. The Rev. Glenn Seefeld and the Rev. Terry Barnes will officiate. Visitation will be from 9:30 to 11 a.m. at the church.
Avant, 20, was reported missing in action in 1950 while serving in the Korean War and was declared dead in 1953. He was accounted for on Sept. 10 by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, and Avant’s family members were notified on Sept. 11.
Bobby Avant of Americus, Georgia, said the support for his brother’s return was overwhelming.
“What has gone on since we got to Jackson this morning, I don’t know how you thank everybody for what has happened,” Bobby said Wednesday afternoon. “Everything that was done was done like the way you would think the U.S. military would do things; it was fantastic.”
Richard Avant of Greenwood said from the people at the airport to the different cities and counties the procession traveled through, agencies such as the Mississippi Highway Patrol, police and sheriffs’ departments and fire departments showed support for his brother.
“It was really impressive — all the way here and the support here in Greenwood,” he said.
When the group of vehicles arrived, it was greeted by American flags placed by the city along U.S. 82 and Sgt. John Pittman Drive, where the funeral home is located. The Patriotic Guard Riders also placed flags at the funeral home and will place 30 flags at the church and Odd Fellows Cemetery on Friday. The city also had American flags placed along Grand Boulevard in honor of Avant.
Students in grades K-12 at North New Summit School on Sgt. John Pittman Drive lined up outside near the school’s flagpole to watch the procession make its way to the funeral home.
Traveling from Jackson were members of the Mississippi Army National Guard Honor Guard, who performed a ceremony, along with members of the Patriot Guard Riders, outside Greenwood Delta Funeral Home as Avant’s American-flag-draped casket was brought inside. The casket featured Avant’s U.S. Army dog tag hanging from one of the handles.
Officers with the Greenwood Police Department and the Leflore County Sheriff’s Department lined up along Sgt. John Pittman Drive with their vehicles’ blue lights flashing.
Greenwood Mayor Carolyn McAdams attended the ceremony.
“I’m just so impressed that after 69 years our U.S. military steps up and comes out and makes such a wonderful presentation for this,” she said. “It’s just amazing. ... I’m just amazed by the story and that this young man is getting to come home, and it gives his family some peace of mind. My heart goes out to the family yet again.”
Members of American Legion Post 29 also attended, including Commander Johnny Favara.
“It was as touching and patriotic as I’ve ever seen,” Favara said about the ceremony. “It was very impressive.”
Bobby Avant said the experience Wednesday was impossible to describe.
“Sixty-nine years later, it’s still harder than I thought it would be,” he said.
Avant’s remains were recovered in 2018 when the North Korean government repatriated 55 boxes containing American service members who were lost during the Korean War. The boxes were returned following the July 27, 2018, summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un.
Scientists identified Avant’s remains using DNA analysis.
Avant was killed in action on Nov. 30, 1950, near the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea while serving on Task Force McLean during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir.
Barrett said members of the Patriot Guard Riders, a non-profit organization of about “190,000 strong nationwide,” will return to Greenwood on Friday for the funeral and burial services.
“What we do is we more or less ride for those who can’t; we honor and show respect to all of our military, our veterans, our first responders,” he said.
Barrett, a veteran of the Vietnam War who resides in Byram, said it was an honor to be part of the procession. He said it’s the fifth Korean War veteran this group of Patriot Guard Riders has honored and the first who was one of the 55 returned in 2018.
“I’d like to thank the family and the people of Greenwood for welcoming this soldier home,” said Barrett. “After 69 years, he’s going to be home for Christmas.”
•Contact Ruthie Robison at 581-7235 or email@example.com.