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Franklin County soldier’s remains returned home after being found in glacier

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FRANKLIN COUNTY, MO (KTVI) - A mystery buried in an Alaska glacier has been solved for a Franklin County family as the remains of a U.S. Air Force Tech Sergeant were discovered in a field of snow and ice.

Sgt. Leonard Unger died more than six decades ago in a military plane crash. On Thursday afternoon his remains were carried by a white hearse down the interstates toward his final resting place. About two dozen Patriot Guard members escorted the airman.

“It was horrible. It was horrible. We didn’t know what to think,” said Theresa Boland, Sgt. Unger’s sister.

She won’t ever forget the day Sgt. Unger died. Theresa was his baby sister, he was the oldest of eight children; she the youngest. She has fond memories.

“He would get in the car and take me for a ride and that was a big thrill for me,” she said.

The joy turned to sadness in November 1952. Unger was riding in a C-124 Globemaster along with 51 other people, when the plane crashed into Mount Gannett in Alaska. Grief gripped the family as they prayed for a miracle that never came. Their pride in him only grew stronger.

“He was a great inspiration for all of us. We loved him very much,” Boland said.

“He was a real pleasant guy; never had a harsh word for anyone,” added Boland’s husband, Sylvester.

Unger left behind a wife and five-year-old boy.

In 2012, crews located crash remains in the Colony Glacier. With the help of DNA, crews are slowly identifying those killed, including Sgt. Unger. Searchers also found pieces from the past: a glove, an old pack of cigarettes, and plane parts.

As the glacier moves it continues to yield more crash debris. People involved in the search said it could be years before their mission is complete. So far, about a third of the souls aboard the plane have been located.

“I ’m so glad they found (him) and he’s coming home and he’s going to be buried close to home,” Boland said.

Searchers and volunteers have scoured the crash site since 2012, but they can only investigate during the summer when the weather is suitable.