NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Sgt. James Harold Lynch left his family in Middle Tennessee in 1950 to fight in Korea. He told his daughter that he would be home soon.
However, that never happened, so that little girl spent her entire life searching for her dad.
It was 1950, in Aetna, Tennessee, where James made this promise to his 4-year-old daughter: “This stupid war will be over in no time and I’ll be home.”
That girl, Patricia Lynch, held onto this moment the rest of her life.
“‘With a final hug and kiss, he put me down, picked up his duffel bag, and walked the dirt lane that led to the highway,'” said Carla Carpenter, Patricia’s daughter, reading from one of her mom’s writings.
That was the last time little Patricia would see her dad.
“It was right at Christmas when I think he was captured,” said Carpenter. “It was a battle in Kunu-ri. I know that they were just being hit bad.”
Carpenter never met her grandfather. She only knew he was a medic in the Army and a prisoner of war, but her mother spent a lifetime looking for more details.
“To me, it’s a little girl in search of her daddy. ‘Daddy said that he was going to be home for Christmas,’ and she was looking for him ever since. Never stopped,” said Carpenter, talking about her mother. “She has talked to every person. Every person she could possibly find. If there was a name in the archive, she hunted them down, found their family, went to their houses, interviewed them.”
After decades of connecting dots and writing articles about James, Carpenter watched her mother’s dogged determination lead to some answers — a sergeant who served alongside James in the final days.
“‘We used to sit around and talk about our families. He was very proud of his child and all of his family,'” read Carpenter from one of her mom’s writings and interviews. “‘It was sometime around the first of January ’51… And we got up that morning and he went down to the creek to get a canteen of water… Around the middle of the day, he leaned back and went to sleep and he never woke up…. I want you to know that I am sorry that he could not come back. He deserved more than what he got out of life.'”
James died of exposure and starvation while a prisoner of war at a mining camp — the answer his little girl spent decades looking for.
“For mom, she needed the closure, she needed that closure,” Carpenter said. “‘Dad said he was going to be home.’ She never quit waiting. She needed that closure.”
Last year, Patricia died at 75 years old. However, the story of her dad, his bravery, and his sacrifice, continues to be told.
“That was her biggest dream. She did not want him forgotten,” said Carpenter.
“Are you picking up the baton?” News 2 asked.
“I think so. I think so,” said Carpenter. “All of a sudden, I have a purpose. I have roots. I have a purpose.”
James received the bronze star for his service.
Hundreds of Tennesseans remain listed as missing in action from World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. News 2 looks at the efforts to keep their memories alive in the special report: Gone But Not Forgotten.