Friday, September 7, 2007

Part Four - Mark Warren Judge

PUBLICATION FORT WAYNE - THE JOURNAL GAZETTE
ALL CONTENT COPYRIGHT © 1999 FORT WAYNE - THE JOURNAL GAZETTE AND MAY NOT BE REPUBLISHED WITHOUT PERMISSION.
TAG: 199911170026

DATE: Thursday, November 11, 1999
EDITION: Final
SECTION: PAGE
PAGE: 1A
SOURCE: BY FRANK GRAY

COLUMN NOTHING FINAL ABOUT FAREWELL FOR MOTHER OF VIETNAM VET

At 11 a.m. on Nov. 20, Mary Jellison will say goodbye to her son for the final time. A nagging doubt will always remain, though, for Jellison. Is the man she will say farewell to, a man who was killed in Vietnam in 1967, really her son Mark Judge ?

For 32 years, another set of bones lay laid in Mark Judge's grave, and Jellison was certain they were those of her son. But the military now says those bones belong to a soldier named William Berry, and on Oct. 29 those remains were prayed over one more time and shipped off to a forgotten cemetery in California. Next week, another set of bones, remains the military assures her are those of her son, will receive a funeral for the first time at Emmanuel Lutheran Church. They will be buried in a grave marked with Judge's name. ``I want to think it's my son,'' Jellison said. ``He will be treated like my son. I will visit this grave, just like I did the other one.'' One can't help but hope, for Jellison's sake, that the long-dead soldier is, after all, her son. Mark Judge graduated from Elmhurst High School in 1965, and shortly after that went to California, where he enrolled in college and studied engineering. But back in Fort Wayne, all of his friends were being drafted and sent to Vietnam. Judge felt an obligation to go, too. So he quit college after his first year and enlisted in the Marines. Then, on Sept. 21, 1967, on the edge of a rice paddy in Vietnam, Judge, working as the point man on a search-and-destroy mission, walked into an ambush. The men who had shared a foxhole with Judge said he was shot down and possibly even hit by a grenade in that attack. The last anyone saw of him was his body lying in a rice paddy, his face covered with blood or mud. It was a month before the military was able to return to the scene of that battle to recover the bodies of American soldiers who died there. Another month passed before the body the government said was that of Jellison's son arrived in Fort Wayne and was laid to rest Nov. 17, 1967, at Concordia Cemetery Gardens.

Since then, once a month, sometimes twice a month, Mary Jellison has visited the grave, placing fresh flowers on it, and a fresh flag. But in 1994, the military announced a mix-up. The body in the grave, it said, wasn't Judge. Judge had survived the ambush, been taken prisoner and been killed while trying to escape. His remains were returned to America in 1986, the government said. where they were left on a shelf in a building in Hawaii, the government said. Jellison couldn't accept that. In 1996, she had the remains in her son's grave disinterred and put them in a mausoleum, refusing to grant the military access unless DNA tests could prove the bones were not those of her son.

Not until last May did the military agree to the DNA test. Officials took bone samples, and}Three weeks ago, Jellison was told that the bones were those of William Berry, a soldier from California. Earlier DNA tests, Jellison was told, had shown that the remains that were repatriated in 1986 were those of her son.

By now, though, Jellison has no idea whom to believe or whom to trust. She can only hope that the bones the military says belong to Mark Judge are those of her son. After visiting her son's grave at Concordia Cemetery Gardens for 32 years, Jellison found it hard to give up the remains of the grave. At an October service for Berry, Jellison quoted thoughts she had written earlier. ``We are praying this is all God's will. . . . We have always called you Mark, my son, and the brother to Karen, Kim and Kevin. Though you have been with us for 32 years, they say you are not ours, and you belong to a family in California. In our hearts we will never know, but we do know this. They can take you from this family, but they can never take you from God. . . . May God hold you close, and you will rest in peace forever.'' What aches within Jellison is that the bones that were in her son's grave are going to a grave in an overgrown cemetery in California, one that she says has never been visited since the bones of yet another dead soldier were was laid there decades ago. She can't tolerate the idea that a person whom she still suspects could be her son is being placed in a grave that will be ignored. But she can't fight any longer. Despite her misgivings, ``I'm accepting this as our son and brother.'' And when he is buried, the marker will be changed. It will be added that her son was a prisoner of war.

Frank Gray's column is published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376; fax, 461-8893; or e-mail, fgray@jg.net
CAPTION: PHOTO: MUGSHOT OF MARK JUDGE

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