Korean War POW from Harriman, Tenn., to be laid to rest today

South Korean army soldiers patrol along the barbed-wire fence in South Korea's Paju near the border with North Korea, Friday, Aug. 11, 2017. Military officials said Friday they plan to move ahead with large-scale U.S.-South Korea exercises later this month that North Korea, now finalizing plans to launch a salvo of missiles toward Guam, claims are a rehearsal for war. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

The remains of an 18-year-old Korean War veteran from Harriman, Tenn., will be laid to rest today, nearly 70 years after his death while being held as a POW in Unsan, North Korea.

U.S. Army Cpl. Thomas H. Mullins of Harriman went missing on Nov. 2, 1950, while serving with Company L, 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division in the vicinity of Unsan during the Korean War, according to a news release from the Tennessee Department of Veterans Services.

After the war ended, a former POW explained to American authorities that Mullins died of malnutrition and possible pneumonia while being held at POW Camp 5 in Pyoktong, North Korea.

The Army declared PFC Mullins dead on March 29, 1951, posthumously promoted him to corporal and notified his family of its findings, veterans officials said in the release.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Veterans Services Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder recognize the service and sacrifice, the release said.

On Dec. 14, 1993, North Korea turned over 33 boxes of remains believed to be those of Americans from the Korean War. The Department of Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency and Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used DNA from two cousins to positively identify the Harriman High School student on June 8, 2017, officials said.

"As a Tennessee teenager, Tommy bravely answered a call to protect our freedom and gave the ultimate sacrifice in a prison camp far from home," Haslam said. "We pause to remember this young hero, the life he laid down for his country and the grieving family he left behind."

Grinder echoed the governor's sentiments.

"We are relieved that Cpl. Mullins will finally be laid to rest and that his surviving family members will be able to offer him a reverent final resting place," Grinder said. "Family members are experiencing so many emotions that cover more than six decades of waiting and wondering, but closure has finally come."

Mullins was born on March 29, 1932, declared deceased by the Army on March 29, 1951, and will be interred on March 29, which would have been his 86th birthday.

Mullins will be buried at Bay Pines National Cemetery at 10000 Bay Pines Boulevard North in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Thursday at 1:30 p.m.

Haslam has declared a day of mourning and ordered flags to be flown at half-staff from sunrise to sunset today in honor of Cpl. Mullins' sacrifice.

Mullins is survived by his cousins Patsy Tomkins of Seminole, Fla., Peggy Freeman of Salisbury, N.C., Garland Mullins of Harriman, Tenn., Lisa and Steve Bailey of Plant City, Fla., Daveanna Tomkins of Seminole, Fla., and David Tomkins of Philadelphia, Pa.

Mullins was preceded in death by his father, Oscar B., mother, Gladys M., and brother, Oscar Lee Mullins, officials said.