COLDSPRING, Texas - The Lilley brothers, James and Stan, have boxes full of photos, letters and memorabilia of their father, Sgt. Merritt Lilley; it's all they have. They were just 2 and 10 years old when Merritt Lilley became a prisoner of war, declared missing in action in 1951.
"I remember the day they told my mother he was missing in action," James Lilley said. "But that's not a final thing. You always think maybe he'll turn up."
He never did. That was 64 years ago. The Lilley boys were raised by their mother Juanita, who is now 94.
"We just had to go through it, " she told Local 2. "I had a big family."
Her husband served in World War II and in Korea. That's where Merritt Lilley was when his small Army unit was overrun by the enemy. His family said they believe he was killed over there, but they've never received confirmation and his remains were never found. Juanita searched for answers for many years.
"I know she spent a lot of hard hours looking for him," said James Lilley.
Considered a hero, Merritt Lilley was awarded a purple heart in WWII and later in 1951, one year after he was declared missing. His family was presented with a silver star for his bravery in Korea.
Merritt Lilley fought to open a road for American troops and vehicles carrying the wounded to escape deadly enemy fire. The road was opened and the troops made it to safety but he was reportedly wounded and captured. His remains were never recovered.
On Friday the family will be honored once again. A monument will be unveiled in front of the San Jacinto courthouse in dedication to Merritt Lilley for his years of service and sacrifice.
"It's an honor he certainly deserves," said James Lilley. "We're proud of him."
"It's an honor and like he said, I think he deserves it," Stan Lilley said.
Copyright 2014 by Click2Houston.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.