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The Villages
Sunday, April 14, 2024

Sisters receive medals, recognition for brother who died in Korean War POW camp

A ceremony of a more personal nature followed Monday’s Memorial Day commemoration at Veterans Memorial Park in The Villages when the family of Army Cpl. Lester Bishop received the recognition for his service they had long sought.

Bishop was 20-years-old when he enlisted in the Army at the start of the Korean War. Soon, his infantry company was fighting near the Chinese border.

Lt. Col. Patricia Pitts, of the Army’s Casualty Assistance Office, presents Cpl. Lester Bishop’s Purple Heart to his sisters, Nancy Kochendarfer and Villager Dora Cunningham.

“In November 1950, he was captured and sent to one of North Korea’s most infamous prison camps,” said his sister, Dora Cunningham, of the Village of Country Club Hills. “We didn’t know about his capture until two months later.”
Bishop died June 4, 1951. Like many other prisoners, he died of starvation. His body never returned home.

Twenty years ago, his family began their quest to reclaim his remains and request that the Army acknowledge his meritorious service to his country.

“Today has been a long time in coming,” said another sister, Nancy Kochendarfer. “We now have positive DNA.”

Proudly displaying the medals earned by Cpl. Lester Bishop are his sisters, Nancy Kochendarfer and Villages resident Dora Cunningham, with Lt. Col. Patricia Pitts of the Army’s Casualty Assistance Office.

Lt. Col. Patricia Pitts, representing the Army’s Casualty Assistance Office, said the process of repatriation now is under way. She presented the family with several of Bishop’s medals, including his Purple Heart, Combat Infantry Badge, Prisoner of War and Korean Service medals.

“The Army wants to make sure that we honor all our veterans – both past and those serving in the present,” she explained.

Cunningham thanked those in attendance for their interest.

“This means so very much to me and my family,” she said. “Before Lester left for overseas, he told his mother that if he didn’t return, that we should use his insurance money to buy a home. With great sadness, we followed his wishes.

“Now, after all these years, we are bringing him home.”

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