Robert Vernon Estes: Still Missing, But Not Forgotten – 52 Ancestors #339

At the moment was an unbelievable day – one I’ve been working in the direction of and searching ahead to for greater than a yr. One which Robert Vernon Estes earned greater than 70 years in the past.

Robert was a POW, captured in Korea on November 30, 1950.

Bobby remains to be MIA since he was by no means formally reported as both captured or recognized useless by means of official channels and his physique was by no means returned.

He was declared useless, nonetheless, in 1954 after a fellow POW after launch reported that Robert had died someday round January 31, 1951.

This navy picture within the Monticello paper is the one recognized picture of Bobby and we wouldn’t have that had been it not for an extremely tenacious volunteer on the White County Historic Society. I can’t thank her sufficient.

Our household has dispersed to the wind. Bobby is my father’s brother’s baby. Bobby’s mother and father divorced as did my mother and father. I knew Bobby had died within the navy, however had no particulars. Bobby’s father was concerned in some sort of accident that induced mind injury.

Bobby’s mom died earlier than he was declared useless. I don’t know what occurred to his step-father. Bobby’s brother went his personal manner and a technology or two later, the household had scattered to the winds.

Bobby died at 19, by no means married and had no kids.

Seventy years later, I’m Bobby’s closest remaining member of the family and as such, was the Gold Star Household consultant at immediately’s memorial service. I believe formally Gold Star members of the family are limited to immediate family – however my invitation addressed me as a Gold Star member of the family and I stuffed in for others now deceased.

I’m honored to symbolize Bobby, the primary cousin I by no means knew, however who I’m named after.

I’ve written about Robert Vernon Estes twice.

Indiana Struggle Memorial Basis

The Indiana Struggle Memorial Basis had deliberate to honor Indiana’s Korean Struggle MIAs in 2020, however needed to postpone the occasion till this summer season.

At the moment dawned scorching and humid – a typical Indiana summer season day except for the excessive degree smoke that made the environment hazy along with scorching and humid. The one blessing is that there was a minimum of a touch of a breeze.

The Troopers and Sailors Monument

The Soldier and Sailors Monument, devoted in 1902 sits useless heart in the midst of Indianapolis, useless heart in the midst of Indiana.

alexeatswhales, CC BY 2.0 <;, through Wikimedia Commons

Bricks, many engraved with the names of veterans, pave the round avenue and sidewalks encompass the towering monument.

As I turned the nook to hunt for a parking storage, the monument loomed above the town in entrance of me. You possibly can’t miss it.

The streets had been blocked immediately and households, having traveled from from all around the nation had been instructed to reach early.

The ceremony would start at 10.

I seen the person on the bike and thought to myself that he should be awfully scorching.

After parking and strolling the couple blocks to the circle, I found why the bike was current.

Rolling Thunder

Rolling Thunder is an advocacy group of bikers who’re veterans based in 1995. Their membership is dedicated to accounting for all POW and MIA troopers from all wars.

You might bear in mind Rolling Thunder to the Wall in Washington DC in 2010 and the blessing of the bikes.

The final Washington DC journey came about in 2019, however the native and state chapters are nonetheless extraordinarily energetic of their assist and advocacy.

I walked straight as much as these males and thanked them for each their service and for becoming a member of us immediately. One veteran jogged my memory of my brother, and it was all I might do to maintain my voice from cracking and take a look at to not stare.

We are going to see these guys a bit later:)

Signing In

As every household signed in, we famous the title of our soldier and our relationship. I used to be one of many early arrivals and seen each “sister” and “daughter.” Siblings had been nonetheless alive, however the entire mother and father, born about 1910 or earlier, could be gone now. Each single considered one of them handed away with out closure about what occurred to their son.

Bobby’s mom died earlier than he was declared useless, however not earlier than she obtained a small field with just a few of his belongings. I hope they introduced her a minimum of some degree of consolation.

At the moment, in Indy, bricks laid in honor of our members of the family who by no means got here dwelling could be unveiled to honor their service and sacrifice.

Household Packets

To not say that it was scorching or something, however within the packets offered for every household had been the quintessential “funeral followers.” Now I don’t suppose everybody known as them funeral followers. They had been at all times caught at the back of pews with the hymnals at church after I was rising up.

Everybody at funerals at all times nervously fanned, AND, usually funeral houses purchased the followers – for promoting after all. Jesus praying was at all times on one aspect and the funeral dwelling’s title was at all times on the opposite.

A beautiful brochure was additionally included within the packet with the scheduled occasions of the day.

After all, honoring these courageous males was the aim of immediately’s somber occasion.

Credit score The place Credit score Is Due

Earlier than I am going any additional, I have to thank quite a lot of nameless individuals. I took many of those photographs and movies, however not all. Our households had been assembled by advantage of frequent tragedy which offered us with an instantaneous bond. We talked, thanked the veterans and males in uniform current, shared photographs, messaged forwards and backwards, air-dropped and requested random individuals to please take our footage in entrance of one thing or with different members of the family. By the point the ceremony truly started, we had been on a primary title foundation and sharing tales.

In reality, maybe essentially the most superb factor of all is what occurred afterwards. You’re not going to imagine this. However let’s get by means of the ceremony first.

Settling In

As individuals started to get settled, I stepped again far sufficient to get a photograph of the tent that had (fortunately) been arrange for the households in entrance of the Memorial. I needed to stand again a LONG manner. It’s HUGE!

As I stored backing up additional to get this shot, I noticed there was one thing occurring on the street behind me.

Firetrucks and the Flag

Clearly safety was a consideration for an occasion like this, and the streets had been blocked off. The circle itself and the block resulting in the circle.

I heard some commotion and rotated.

What are they doing?

Oh, look, it’s a kind of big flags.

I used to be excited to get to witness this. Take a look at the one man actually “holding the bag.”

I remembered that my cellphone has video functionality. Forgive the novice behind the digicam right here – I needed to flip it sideways on the finish. It was fairly an endeavor to maintain the flag from touching the bottom.

The flag was unfurled with a bit assist from one of many Rolling Thunder guys. Discover the firefighter with the now-empty bag. I’m wondering how they get the flag again in that bag.

I’ve to say, the flag being raised with synchronized ladders is an incredible sight and makes you’re feeling actually small and awestruck.

The flag was raised excessive above the road. I might like to have gone as much as the commentary tower within the Memorial and brought a glance, however that constructing (satirically) wasn’t open, and in addition to, I didn’t wish to miss something exterior.

I scoped out my seat close to the tip of the primary row. Individuals had been milling round, however starting to take their seats.

Preparations had been happening on the stage space and Rolling Thunder veterans had been everyplace.

I occurred to look again on the tent and noticed the flag. You couldn’t miss the flag!

I used to be making my approach to my seat at far left, above, after which I noticed “hassle.” The nice type of hassle:)


You’ve all been my readership household lengthy sufficient by now to know that I can’t go anyplace with out some journey discovering me or me getting in some type of hassle. When hassle fails to seek out me, that’s how I’ll know I’m useless.

You might recall, my brother-who-was-not-my-brother was an extended haul trucker, a biker and a wounded Vietnam Marine.

Belief me, in the event you’re ever in actual hassle someplace, discover considered one of these guys.

Standing close to my seat was one other group of Rolling Thunder guys. I swear, they had been the safety element. I imply, who’s going to mess with anybody with legions of those guys round. No sane particular person, that’s for positive!

I thanked these males for his or her service AND what they do immediately. The voice of remembrance when it’s all too simple to overlook.

We talked in regards to the MIA and POW males nonetheless unaccounted for and I advised them that despite the fact that Bobby is formally MIA, we all know he’s deceased, after all. Everybody shook their head in settlement. One of many males requested me his title. Then I defined it’s my title too, I’m named for Robert. And I stored Estes too. Then I advised them about Dave.

Not a dry eye within the place. A little bit of shoe shuffling, allergy symptoms and hugging.

Let’s simply say we bonded. Discover my particular buddy to my left who’s modeling my bag. These guys had been so doggone a lot enjoyable to go to with and defined extra about what Rolling Thunder does, how they take part, and their dedication. Belief me, nobody rides bikes, wears leather-based and hangs out within the intense mid-summer warmth in the event that they aren’t both associated or dedicated.

Earlier than sitting down, I made a decision to seize one image of the households and the flag from the memorial steps.

The Ceremony Begins

I had an ideal seat with an exquisite view of the Memorial itself. All these years I lived in Indiana and I by no means actually paid consideration. I’m undecided I had ever seen the Memorial apart from from a distance.

The Indiana Nationwide Guard’s thirty eighth Infantry Brass Quintet, in full costume uniform, was positioned to the best.

I can solely think about how depressing they should have been. You’d by no means have recognized it from their beautiful music.

The dignitaries start delivering remarks.

The flags are ceremonially escorted into the stage space by a shade guard – you’ve guessed it. Rolling Thunder once more.

Do not forget that I discussed there was, blessedly, a breeze?

Probably the most surprising factor occurred a minute or two later.

The breeze blew the American flag proper over, onto the bottom with a convincing thud. An audible gasp emanated from the gang. Everybody is aware of that the flag is rarely supposed to the touch the bottom. Once I was youthful I assumed a flag needed to be destroyed if it touched the bottom. I questioned what would occur, not finally to the flag, however on this occasion. In the midst of a ceremony honoring a particular class of our veterans.

Two males from Rolling Thunder walked up behind the dignitaries, picked up the flags and proceeded to face at some stage in the ceremony holding the flags upright. What a ravishing image.

The Nationwide Anthem was sung, acapella, by Workers Sergeant Ronald Walker, additionally in full costume uniform. This man is each courageous and superb!

Unveiling the Bricks

Subsequent, the bricks had been unveiled. I had been unaware that the blue tarp was truly masking the bricks.

I don’t must inform you who did the revealing do I?

I used to be happy to see that the bricks for the Korean POW/MIAs had been positioned collectively, not scattered across the plaza.

My neighbor had a greater view than I did and kindly shared his video with me.

The revealing of the bricks was adopted by the wreath laying.

The wreath laying is a respectful custom related to both funerals or memorial providers.

The Roll Name

I didn’t know in regards to the idea of Roll Name earlier than. Now I’ll by no means be capable of unhear it.

The title of the soldier nonetheless lacking is learn. A veteran, on this case, a Rolling Thunder member, steps ahead and says, “Nonetheless lacking, Sir,” then steps again.

This was repeated 195 instances because the names had been learn in alphabetical order.




Every member of the family in attendance had been given an indication with their soldier’s picture, if one was accessible, and requested to face and maintain the picture going through the gang when it was their flip.

The veteran sitting subsequent to me knew the title of my soldier and filmed this, then gifted it to me.

I can’t even start to inform you how grateful I’m.

I used to be saddened to note what number of males didn’t have consultant members of the family current.

Because the Roll Name completed, and the Rolling Thunder males exited, a bagpiper performed Superb Grace. One in every of two songs I can by no means get by means of dry-eyed.

Adopted, after all, by the subsequent music I can’t get by means of dry-eyed.

The flags or colours had been retired in the identical manner that they had been introduced initially.

After the Ceremony

Robert Vernon Estes and his 194 comrades by no means obtained a funeral. Their households by no means had closure. No matter what occurred to these males in Korea, it’s clear that they aren’t nonetheless residing immediately.

It was unhappy that we would have liked to have this service, however it was lovely and somber and cathartic. It might not be closure for the fast household, however it’s a minimum of recognition that these males haven’t been forgotten.

After the ceremony, there was a palpable sense of gratitude and reduction. The camaraderie of sharing this expertise with others was so significant and necessary. I’m struggling to seek out the best phrases to convey the combination of unhappy and glad and reduction nonetheless combined with prayers that someday, a minimum of a few of these males’s stays will likely be returned for burial. An actual funeral, with faucets, and the 21 gun salute, and every part else that they deserve. Not an empty gap of nothingness.

I’m so stuffed with gratitude for the many individuals who made this attainable.

Some, however not the entire volunteers who made this beautiful ceremony attainable for the veterans and the Gold Star households. Thanks so very a lot.

The gorgeous wreath standing by the bricks.

The one different wreath-laying ceremony I’ve ever attended was when the DAR set the stone for my Revolutionary Struggle ancestor on one other beastly scorching summer season day.

The Remainder of the Story

I attended the ceremony alone. The individuals sitting within the row behind me appeared pleasant sufficient. As we waited for the ceremony to start, we chatted pleasantly about our respective members of the family that we had been honoring.

They didn’t know a lot in regards to the historical past of the unit through which their member of the family had fought. I used to be attempting to elucidate about acquiring information from NARA, and declassified unit information – in essence what I had completed for Robert Estes.

I had seen that somebody representing the Indiana senator’s workplace was sitting two seats from me. I rotated and advised the person behind me that he wanted to speak to the particular person from the senator’s workplace and ask for liaison help.

After they spoke, our group started speaking once more, and I advised him I believe that the unit his member of the family served in fought with the unit Robert served in.

Their household was lucky to have a number of individuals in attendance, whereas I’m the one one left in my technology in my line. By this time, it was midday and miserably scorching – on the north aspect of 90. The committee had offered rollups and ice chilly water whereas the households visited afterwards, however everybody was prepared for one thing extra.

They invited me alongside to eat with them. I hesitated, not eager to be a 3rd wheel and hoping they didn’t really feel obligated to ask me. They mentioned, “hey, you’re household,” and you understand, it felt like household. We determined we’d simply all be household, a minimum of for immediately. I used to be so grateful for the invitation and felt like we had a typical bond. Possibly it was the emotion of the day – I can’t clarify it.

We managed to seek out absolutely the worst Italian restaurant I’ve ever eaten in – however the companionship was great and we had a room within the again to ourselves.

After we completed, I discussed that I had to return to the memorial as a result of one way or the other I had forgotten to seek out Bobby’s brick and take an image – and I wished an image of me with the brick too.

They mentioned they needed to stroll again that manner anyway, so we went collectively.

The stage space was clear and everybody was gone, after all.  Just a few flowers remained. However these bricks are everlasting and can nonetheless be there lengthy after we’re gone!

I used to be so very happy to be current for the one factor of permanence that may stay of Bobby.

I wished to {photograph} the remainder of the bricks, collectively.

That’s When It Occurred!


Robert Minniear is the opposite household’s MIA soldier. He went lacking on November 30, 1950,

So did Bobby.

Each males’s households had been from the identical a part of Indiana.

We simply stared at one another dumbstruck with the conclusion of our discovery. Our members of the family certainly had gone lacking the identical day. Doubtless in the identical battle in Korea. Spoiler alert – I got here again to my lodge and did certainly confirm that the 2 items had been combating collectively on that day.

Did our members of the family know one another? Earlier than, or after they had been captured, or each? Had been they held as POWs collectively, or was their Robert killed throughout both the combating itself or the horrific situations instantly after?

Can the knowledge I’ve discovered about Bobby’s unit assist their household acquire closure?

What are the probabilities that this is able to occur? That we’d all attend this ceremony, sit collectively, strike up a pleasant dialog, really feel a bond, go to lunch, uncover our frequent roots in the identical city, then the revelation of the identical MIA date?

I’d swear, if I didn’t know higher, that the Robert’s had been kind of nudging us.

As Mike, my new member of the family was studying the dates on the remainder of the bricks, he seen a number of different males who had been MIA that very same day and stay so:

  • Gene Ruby – PFC USMC
  • Everett W. Leffler – CPL US Military
  • Robert L. White – SGT US Military
  • Robert Lee White – CPL US Military (I hope these two males aren’t intently associated – that poor household.)
  • Donald Ok. Mitchell – CPL US Military
  • James Mishler – PFC US Military

Possibly, simply perhaps, this story isn’t fairly over simply but. Possibly details about considered one of our troopers is details about all of our troopers…

Possibly there’s a chapter but to be written.

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