Family receives soldier’s medals 68 years after his death in Korea

Published 12:40 pm Thursday, November 14, 2019

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STANFORD – Corporal James Colin Oliver has been missing in action since Oct. 6, 1951.

Oliver, Co. I, 14th Inf., Rept. 25 Division, was one of 8,177 U.S. servicemen believed killed in action whose bodies have never been recovered. While the military declared Oliver dead, he and the many other soldiers who are still unrecovered are officially listed as missing in action rather than killed in action.

The last photograph Oliver’s sister, Doris Irvine of Stanford, has of her brother shows the 19-year-old soldier kneeling down to hold his niece and nephew, (her children) Jennifer Brenda Reed and Raymond Brenda, before shipping out in May of 1951

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“I remember that day when he left ….” Irvine remembered with a smile in an earlier interview with the newspaper.

For the past 68 years, Oliver’s family has had no place to go to grieve for their fallen soldier and they had only a few of his possessions. The only items the family received from Korea were the things found in his foxhole – his razor, his watch, his Testament and a set of chopsticks.

Now, Doris Irvine has something to hang on her wall besides her brother’s picture in uniform and the one of him with her children on the last day she ever saw him.

Irvine, her children, Jennifer and Raymond, and grandson, State Rep. Travis Brenda, were on hand for a Next of Kin Korean War Awards presentation held at the Lincoln County Courthouse Veteran Memorial in downtown Stanford in October where they received his service medals.

“Today’s gathering is an important event to memorialize Corporal James Colin Oliver, who paid the ultimate sacrifice to his country on Oct. 6, 1951 during the Korean War conflict,” said Col. Scott Thomas, G9 Military and Family Support Director. “Corporal Oliver was classified as Missing in Action and never received his service awards. Due to the diligent efforts of his family, today, 68 years later, the United States Army honorably presents Ms. Doris Irvine her brother’s well-deserved military service awards to include Corporal Oliver’s Purple Heart (Posthumous). I’m very humbled and grateful to be here to make this distinguished presentation.”

The Purple Heart award, the highest award presented, was framed. He received the award posthumously for wounds received in hostile action which resulted in his death.

Prior to the Purple Heart award ceremony, Irvine was presented Oliver’s Army Good Conduct Medal, which was presented for exemplary conduct, efficiency and fidelity during period of service, the National Defense Service Medal, the Korean Service Medal with one Bronze Service Star, the Combat Infantryman Badge, the United Nations Service Medal and the Republic of Korea-Korean War Service Medal.

As Oliver’s next of kin, Irvine was entitled to the Gold Star Lapel Button, which was established by an Act of Congress in order to provide an appropriate identification for the next of kin of members of the Armed Forces of the United States who lost their lives while engaged in action against an enemy of the United States.

Oliver’s photograph and name are on memorials at the Lincoln County Courthouse, the Crab Orchard Veterans Memorial and at the national veterans monument in Washington, D.C.

While little is known about his death and last few hours on earth, Irvine related that someone was there with Oliver – at least for a time. She shared that when he was injured a fellow soldier came to his side and tried to help his comrade before his own injuries forced him to leave.

“The boy that was in there with him wrote Momma and Dad,” Irvine said. “He and my brother looked a lot alike and everybody called them ‘the twins.’ He wrote Momma that he carried him so far, because he was wounded, and then he got wounded. Then, he couldn’t carry him no more.”

Oliver had not been in Korea long when he was killed. He arrived in Korea on Aug. 25, 1951, his 20th birthday.

“He was over there just two months when he got killed. He had to do some training in Japan, and then it wasn’t long before they sent him to Korea,” Irvine related.

Irvine said their parents, Mr. and Mrs. Richard Oliver of Crab Orchard, Route 1, received the telegram at their home telling them he had been killed in action on Oct. 6, 1951.

“I remember them when they came with news of his death. The mailman brought the telegram. It was on a Sunday,” said Irvine. “Something like that stays with you.”

Distinguished visitors in attendance at the awards ceremony were Major Timothy Crabtree, assigned Casualty Assistance Officer for the family, Stanford Mayor Scottie Ernst, City Council members Ella Mae Curlis, Ronnie Deatherage and Dalton Miller and County Magistrate Lonnie Pruitt.