A 95-year-old Southern California widow finally welcomed home her fallen husband's remains Friday, six decades after Sgt. Joseph Gantt was killed in the Korean War. Kim Baldonado reports for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Dec. 20, 2013.
A love story that started with a chance meeting nearly 70 years ago aboard a train to Southern California included a tearful chapter Friday morning when the 94-year-old widow of Sgt. First Class Joseph Gantt accepted her husband's remains in an honor guard ceremony.
Gantt was taken prisoner during the Korean War as he defended his unit's position near Kunu-ri' in December 1950. He died as a prisoner of war in March 1951.
SFC Gantt had been presumed dead for more than 60 years. His remains were identified at the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command and forensics labs in Honolulu, then flown to Los Angeles International Airport for Friday's honor guard ceremony.
"I'm so happy -- it's a closure. He's coming home," said widow Clara Gantt, who refused her husband's request that she re-marry in the event of his death. "He was always looking out for my well-being. He wanted me to re-marry and find some man who could give me more than he did.
"I told him, 'No, no. You had a hard time getting me to say yes, and there won't be no more marriage.' So, here I am, still his wife, and I'm going to remain his wife until the Lord calls me home."
Gantt sobbed as her husband's flag-draped casket was removed from the plane before an honor guard transfer to a hearse ahead of a planned burial Saturday in Inglewood, Calif.
Joseph Gantt was born in Maryland in 1924 and joined the Army in 1942. He met his future wife when the two happened to take the same train from Texas to Los Angeles in 1946.
The soldier and other service members were bound for Washington, but Gantt's final stop was Los Angeles.
"He wrote me a letter and told me to come up there," Gantt said. "We were sweethearts for a while, and I got to know him a little better."
Her sweetheart asked her to marry him, but Gantt insisted on exercising due diligence. She needed to be certain that the stranger she met on a Southern California-bound train was the right man for her and that she was the only woman for him.
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"So many soldiers already were married and already had a wife," said Gantt. "I didn't want to be embarrassed.
"When the government said there was no second party, I was pretty happy about that."
"He was a good husband. He was a good soldier," Gantt said. "That was something he loved. He got out of (World War II) and right into another. That was his life."
SFC Gantt (pictured, right) was assigned as a Field Medic, Battery C, 503rd Field Artillery Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division in Korea. For his combat leadership and heroic actions on the day he was captured he was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal with Valor.
He also earned the Purple Heart, Prisoner of War Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Korean Service Medal, Combat Infantry Badge, Philippine Liberation Ribbon, United Nations Service Medal, Republic of Korea War Service Medal and Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation.