EDISON – For the Suliman family, Frank Julius Suliman was the typical older brother, one who loved to scare his younger siblings.
“He was a pain in my butt,” Mary Yaverski said as she fondly remembered her older brother, who was five years older than her.
She recalled her older brother loved to spook her especially after they watched scary movies at the Metuchen theater, which was a mile or so away from their family home.
For the U.S. Army, Suliman was a member of Headquarters and Headquarters Company 9th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, according to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA). After graduating from a vocational high school in New Brunswick, Suliman joined the service.
He grew up in the Bonhamtown section of Edison with his parents John and Anna Suliman. He was one of 10 children.
On Dec. 1, 1950, the convoy of trucks Suliman was riding in was halted by a roadblock south of Kunuri, North Korea, and the soldiers were commanded to abandon the vehicles and attempt to get through the road block on foot.
Fellow soldiers reported Suliman was captured and taken to the Chinese People’s Volunteer Forces Prisoner of War camp at Pukchin-Tarigol, North Korea, where he reportedly died of dysentery in March 1951, according to the DPAA.
Suliman was just 20 years old. His remains were never accounted for until 68 years later, on Jan. 15, 2019. The DPAA officially announced the identification on Jan. 18.
Since the identification, the U.S. Army assigned a casualty assistant officer to oversee the transfer of Suliman’s remains – a femur bone – and to assist the family in preparing a dignified funeral service.
On June 12, 2018, President Donald Trump met with North Korea Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore. The leaders signed a joint statement, including a commitment to recover the remains of American service members lost in North Korea.
In response, North Korea turned over 55 boxes, purported to contain the remains of American service members killed during the Korean War, on July 27, 2018. The remains arrived at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii on Aug. 1, 2018, and were subsequently accessioned into the DPAA laboratory for identification.
To identify Suliman’s remains, scientists from DPAA used anthropological analysis, as well as circumstantial and material evidence. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA and autosomal DNA analysis.
On April 30, Suliman’s siblings – sisters Olga Anderson and Yaverski and brother Robert Suliman, family and friends, along with members of the U.S. Army, veteran groups, local officials and Edison, police, fire and emergency medical services, remembered and paid their respects to Suliman during a viewing at Boylan Funeral Home on Wooding Avenue.
Ruth Byczkowski, whose brother was married to Anderson at one time, came to pay her respects to the family.
“I knew they lost two brothers in World War II and the Korean War,” she said.
Suliman’s older brother, James Suliman, joined the U.S. Marine Corps after high school and became a medic. He was killed during World War II in the Battle of Iwo Jima in 1945.
For the viewing, an Army Service Uniform jacket laid in a wooden casket. The jacket was pinned with his name and military medals and badges Suliman, who rose up to the rank of sergeant, earned, including the Purple Heart for wounds he received in action that resulted in his death.
Anderson’s daughter, Kathleen Tushinski of North Brunswick, put together a poster board of photos of her uncle she never met.
“He passed in 1951 and I was born in 1965,” she said. “When I was nine years old, we went to visit my uncle [Robert Suliman] who lived in Hawaii at the time.”
There, Tushinski said she visited the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific located at Punchbowl Crater in Honolulu with her family and learned more about her two uncles.
Last year, Tushinski, her daughter Francesca, who is interested in becoming a geneticist, and her mother and aunt attended a geneticist seminar for families of POW/MIA from World War II to Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan in Philadelphia.
“My daughter and I were very interested about all the DNA and mitochondrial DNA and how they use that to bring loved ones back home,” she said, noting she and her daughter submitted mitochondrial DNA.
Tushinski said when the family found out they had found her uncle’s femur bone it was wonderful for her mother, her siblings and family.
“It’s final closure,” she said, adding the case worker from the U.S. Army assigned to the family has been helpful with providing information to the family and to make sure her uncle gets a proper burial.
Robert Suliman, of Washington State, said he was the youngest child of the Suliman family. He followed in both his brother’s footsteps and joined the military. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps.
“When Frank joined the Army I was 10 years old,” he said. “He helped me learn about sports and he took care of us. He was someone I looked up to for inspiration.”
Frank Aleck, post commander of VFW Post 3117 in Edison, said last month the chairperson for District 8 VFW POW/MIA sent an email about Suliman informing them he might be from the area.
“I reached out to Lt. Robert Dudash and the search started for relatives,” he said. “It turned out he had two sisters who lived in Edison.”
Aleck said they worked with members of the police department to honor the family.
“This is what we do as a veteran organization … we honor the deceased, all are entitled to the honor,” he said.
Resident Theresa Ward came to honor the Suliman family.
“The Korean War was during my generation,” she said. “When I moved to Edison, I learned the names of the streets in my area are named after the men who we lost during the war.”
Mayor Thomas Lankey said it is a sad day for the township as Suliman, a native of Edison, is back home and laid to rest.
“I am thankful that Sgt. Suliman’s family now has the closure and peace of mind they deserve,” he said.
Lankey further said he is “proud of the Edison Township police officers who escorted Suliman’s remains from Newark Airport to Edison on April 28, who stationed a 15-officer Honor Guard at the Boylan Funeral Home and escorted the sergeant to his final resting place in Wrightstown.”
“I hope our officers were a comfort and source of strength to Sgt. Suliman’s family members,” he said.
After the viewing, a funeral with full military honors was held at the Brigadier General William Doyle Memorial Cemetery, Wrightstown, Burlington County, where Suliman was laid to rest.
Contact Kathy Chang at email@example.com.