Nearly 70 years after a local Army corporal went missing during the Korean War, the casket carrying the body of Ysabel "Mac" Ortiz is finally back in Southern California.
More than a dozen family members lined up on the tarmac at Ontario International Airport to see it happen. Leading the way was Ortiz's 87-year-old sister Jenny, who spearheaded the decades-long effort to bring him home.
"She was determined," said Jenny Ortiz's daughter Roseanne Bravo. "She wanted to see this through, and she did."
According to the Department of Defense, 19-year old Cpl. Ysabel "Mac" Ortiz was a member of the 15th Anit-Aircraft Automatic Weapons Battalion, 7th Infantry Division, when he went missing in action during combat on Dec. 2, 1950 in North Korea. His remains were never recovered.
Bravo said for years, her mother never told her about her brother's fate.
"She just said he relocated to Korea and he lived there with another family," said Bravo. "And that was it."
Bravo said she found out around the time she was in high school. Ever since then, for decades, she said her mother has tirelessly fought to find out what happened to Cpl. Ortiz. That meant countless flights to Washington, D.C. to try to gather information from the military.
Jenny Ortiz's fight to find answers became more desperate in recent years, as her health started to fail.
"My mom is in the last stages of renal failure, and she was determined that she was going to locate him before she died."
Two years ago, Bravo said her mother, as well as Cpl. Ortiz's two half-brothers submitted their DNA to the Department of Defense for testing. Then, after President Donald Trump's summit with North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, North Korea returned 55 boxes, supposedly containing the remains of American service members.
The family watched on television last summer, as those boxes were returned home. At the time, they didn't know whether Ortiz's remains were inside one of them.
It wasn't until DNA testing confirmed what they were hoping. On Aug. 9, 2019 they got the phone call they were hoping for.
"Because of the summit meeting that happened, of the 55 boxes, he was number 27," said Bravo, about an hour before the casket's arrival in Ontario.
"I'm happy that she is going to see her brother come home."
Cpl. Ysabel "Mac" Ortiz is scheduled to be buried at Riverside National Cemetery on Oct. 28, 2019.
Army hero's remains returned to SoCal nearly 70 years after he went missing during Korean War