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Northeast Georgia welcomes home fallen soldier

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Cpl. Terrell J. Fuller is finally home. After 67 years, the Korean War soldier’s remains were returned to his hometown of Toccoa on Thursday. Thousands turned out to pay their respects as the homecoming procession rolled by.

A great tribute

Law enforcement and the Patriot Guard Riders escorted Fuller and his family from Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta to Acree-Davis Funeral Home in Toccoa. The 104-mile-long procession passed through six North Georgia counties. Along the way, people gathered on roadsides and bridges to pay tribute to the fallen veteran and his family.

Some onlookers waved flags, others saluted, some stood in somber reverence as the hearse bearing Fuller’s remains passed by them.

“Truly an honor, privilege and humbling all in one, I will never forget this day and being part of such a wonderful show of respect.” – HCES Director Chad Black

Scenes like this one on US 441 Business played out all over Habersham County as people gathered to pay their respects to Cpl. Terrell J. Fuller.

Grant-Reeves VFW Post 7720 Commander Bill Miles viewed the procession from the U.S. 441 Business overpass in Cornelia. He was among dozens of veterans, public safety personnel, and members of the general public who gathered there to pay their respects.

“What’s most important to me is the fact that this family is now going to have closure,” Miles says. “I’m glad that a lot of people took time out of their day to come and do this and pay honor for this veteran who’s finally getting to come home and be laid to rest.”

“It’s an honor to see the fellas coming back,” adds retired U.S. Army Sgt. Larry DeVerger. “I don’t know why it took so long is my biggest question that I have, but I’m glad to see that they finally get to come home.”

A great honor

Habersham County Emergency Services Director Chad Black was among the local officials who escorted Fuller’s remains through Habersham. He calls it one of the greatest honors of his life.

“I have participated in many events in my 34 years in Public Safety, and this was one of the best feeling, goose bumps moments I have had the honor to participate in,” he tells Now Habersham. “Seeing the citizens and Public Safety Officials of this county line up on the side of the roadway, intersections and overpasses showing their respect for Cpl. Fuller and his family, was truly heartwarming, and makes me very proud to be part of this community.”

Sheriff Joey Terrell echoes that sentiment. “There are no words to explain the feeling of escorting a hero home and to honor what he accomplished and his ultimate sacrifice he made for our nation,” he says.

Going all out for a veteran who gave all
The Patriot Guard Riders rolled into town ahead of the hearse carrying Cpl. Fuller’s remains. (Daniel Purcell/Now Habersham)

Nowhere is that sacrifice felt more keenly, perhaps, than in the town Fuller left behind nearly seven decades ago. People were up early in Toccoa on Thursday preparing for his homecoming. They draped patriotic bunting from buildings and lined the downtown streets with flags.

School kids walked to the courthouse to witness the historic homecoming. Veterans reminisced as they waited to welcome their comrade home.

When the procession rolled into downtown Toccoa at 10 a.m. they were ready. Months of preparation gave way to deep-seated emotion.

“Today I stood in honor of a soldier I never knew with tears rolling down my cheeks,” wrote Joann Raybon on Facebook. “From Hartsfield to Toccoa people stood, saluted, held flags and waited in the August sun to see this man come home. I was lucky enough to witness his homecoming.”

There was a strong sense of gratitude among those who were gathered. They expressed gratitude to Cpl. Fuller and his family for their service and sacrifice and gratitude to our nation for bringing him home.

“It’s a great testament to us as Americans that we do all we can to make sure no one is left behind,” says Rep. Terry Rogers (R-Clarkesville).

Fuller’s long journey home

Fuller was serving with the 38th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division in South Korea when he went missing in action on February 12, 1951.

He was just 20 years old.

Three years later, the Army declared Fuller dead after his name appeared on a list of Chinese and North Korean POWs who died in captivity.

Scouts and a law enforcement officer pay their respects as Cpl. Fuller’s homecoming procession passes by in Toccoa. (Daniel Purcell/Now Habersham)

Between 1990 and 1994 North Korea returned to the United States the remains of at least 400 unidentified U.S. service members. The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) identified Fuller’s remains through DNA analysis and forensic testing. On April 24 of this year, DPAA notified Fuller’s family he’d been identified and was finally coming home.

Now that he is home his family plans to give him a proper burial. They’ll host a public visitation from 4-7 p.m. on Friday, August 10, at Acree-Davis Funeral Home in Toccoa.

Then, on Saturday, on what would have been his 88th birthday, Cpl. Fuller will be buried at 11 a.m. in a private service at Stephens Memorial Gardens. His funeral procession will travel from Currahee Street to the cemetery located at 6488 Big A Road. The public is again encouraged to line the route to pay their respects as Cpl. Fuller is carried to his final resting place.

Homecoming

Aug. 9, 2018
Cornelia & Toccoa, Georgia
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