Pfc. Kenneth Bridger served in Company K, 3rd Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division. On Nov. 30, 1950, he was reported missing in action.
BOISE, Idaho — After 72 years, Army Pfc. Kenneth L. Bridger, 17, of Colville, Wash., was finally laid to rest during a military honors ceremony in Twin Falls Saturday, May 21.
Bridger was reported missing in action on Nov. 30, 1950, while serving alongside his fellow U.S. troops during the war against North Korea.
“Every U.S. service member is committed to never leave a fallen comrade behind. It is in our creed,” Major General Michael Garshak, Idaho’s adjutant general, said. “Although it has taken over 70 years to return Pfc. Bridger from the battle fields of Korea, it is comforting to me and to all who serve to know that we fight for a country that will never give up in keeping that promise. It is an immense honor to be a part of this ceremony and return Pfc. Bridger home to his final resting place with his family.”
Bridger enlisted into the U.S. Army from Colville, Wash., but many of his remaining family lives in Idaho. Four of Bridger’s living siblings, along with their families, attended the ceremony. Bridger was laid to rest next to his mother and brothers.
Garshak presented Wilber Bridger, Pfc. Bridger’s brother and oldest surviving relative, the U.S. flag and the Purple Heart on his brother’s behalf. Bridger’s brothers Lynn and Halbert “Lee” Bridger along with his sister, Florence Fiscus, received the U.S. flag from the Idaho National Guard.
The four siblings also received POW/MIA flags from the National League of the POW/MIA Families and local POW/MIA Awareness Associations in his honor.
Pfc. Bridger was also awarded the Army Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Korean Service Medal with three Bronze Service Stars, the Combat infantryman Badge, the United Nations Service Medal and the Republic of Korea-Korean War Service Medal.
A flyover was performed by the Idaho Army National Guard’s State Aviation Group using two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, and the Idaho National Guard joint honor guard preformed taps and the folding of the flag presentation.
It was the last night of his unit’s stand on the defensive perimeter south of Pungnyuri Inlet on the east side of the Chosin Reservoir, North Korea when Bridger went missing.
After the battle, Bridger’s remains could not be recovered. It took nearly 72 years for his remains to be repatriated, and he was accounted for on Jan. 26, 2022.
Pfc. Bridger’s remains were returned to Twin Falls May 17, at the Magic Valley Regional Airport, and were met by members of the Magic Valley POW/MIA Awareness Association. Bridger’s only living relatives now live in the Twin Falls area.
A patriotic escort of flags and motorcycles escorted Pfc. Bridger from the airport to Park’s Magic Valley Funeral Home.
According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, more than 7,600 Americans are still unaccounted for from the Korean War.
Bridger’s name is amoung those recorded on the American Battle Monuments Commission’s Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, along with others who are still missing from the Korean War. A rosette will be placed next to his name indicating he has been accounted for.
Pfc. Kenneth LeRoy Bridger laid to rest
See the latest news from around the Treasure Valley and the Gem State in our YouTube playlist: