Darr Keirn has been fighting for years to recover the remains of his brother, U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Meredith Keirn.
Earlier this year, Darr finally got the news he’d been waiting for - his brother’s remains had been positively identified and his wish to properly honor his service by having him buried in Arlington Cemetery would be fulfilled.
“At least now we know that he’ll be buried in Arlington,” Darr said.
Meredith Keirn was born on Dec. 25, 1925 and was raised with Darr and five other siblings, including Sharon, Jan, Reah, Demarius and Sprinse.
He enlisted in the Navy from Niagara Falls, reporting for duty in the Navy on March 9, 1944 before joining the Marines on March 20. He began active service in the Marines on March 24, 1944 and was honorably discharged as a corporal May 22, 1946. He then reenlisted May 23, 1946 and was discharged as a sergeant May 22, 1949. He then reenlisted again as a sergeant.
During World War II, Meredith Keirn served in the battle of Iwo Jima, one of the bloodiest battles in Marine history.
Darr’s son-in-law, Michael Cendoma, said when Keirn reenlisted for the final time many of his friends were already serving in Korea.
“He has a pass already saying he’s a hero,” Cendoma said. “There’s not reason for him to do anything more, and he signs back up to do it all over again. I just think that’s extremely impressive. I think he just probably couldn’t stand being home knowing men in his company that he had fought with were still fighting. I’m sure that was the motivation to sign back up.”
During the Korean War, Keirn was a member of Fox Company, officially known as Company F, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.
He was wounded on Nov. 28, 1950 by the Chinese Communist Forces while defending a hill overlooking the Toktong Pass in North Korea. His remains were buried at the base of the nearby “Fox Hill.”
In October of 2011, Darr Keirn went to a military building at Arlington Cemetery and found out that if he wanted to identify his brother’s remains he had to submit a DNA sample.
The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, which is responsible for attempting to identify unaccounted U.S. military personnel dating back to World War II, was contacted by an intermediary from South Korea in August 2015 and they turned over a partial set of remains reportedly recovered from North Korea.
Charles Prichard, the public affairs director for the POW/MIA accounting agency, said roughly 82,000 soldiers from World War II through the Gulf War remain unaccounted for, with 7,691 of the soldiers having served during the Korean War.
The accounting agency identified the remains of Meredith Keirn on May 31, 2018.
Irene Keirn received a call around the beginning of June from Hatti Johnson, head of the POW/MIA section at the U.S, Marine Corps, who told the Keirn family that the DNA identification was exact and there was no question they had recovered Meredith’s body.
The representative told the family that Meredith Keirn was the most highly decorate marine that she has dealt with in her 22 years of service.
Jan Reeves, Meredith’s adopted brother, said “it was quite a surprise but it was a nice one.”
After they received the news of the DNA identification, Lynn Piechowski, a relative, approached Denise Cendoma with a box that she hadn’t gone through from one of Darr’s sisters, Reah. The box contained numerous awards and letters of commendation Meredith received, including one signed by President Harry Truman and General Douglas MacArthur.
Darr’s longstanding wish to have his brother’s remains buried at Arlington will be honored soon. The family is now waiting for Meredith’s remains to be sent from Honolulu, Hawaii for a planned ceremony at Arlington.
Michael Cendoma credited Darr with never giving up on bringing his brother home.
“Darr has just been constantly trying to get his brother back ... he’s just been adamant that his brother got back,” he said.