Peoria family reconnects to 1950 soldier’s remains after watching news story

An Arizona soldier was killed in the Korean War but his remains weren't identified until last month and his family in Peoria found out in an unconventional way.
Published: Aug. 23, 2022 at 8:53 PM MST
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PEORIA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- An Arizona soldier whose remains were unidentified for more than 70 years will now be laid to rest in Tucson. But the way his family found out was unconventional and heartwarming, making Tuesday unexpected in the best way.

For decades, Felix Padilla knew his cousin was killed in the Korean War, but his remains were never found and identified. So, there was a flood of emotions when Felix was watching our newscast Monday morning and saw a familiar picture that made his heart skip a beat.

Family first: now and always. That’s how Felix Padilla has always lived his life. But there’s been somebody missing. “The picture I have of my cousin my mom gave me. I always kept it,” said Padilla.

Seventy-two years ago, in 1950, his 19-year-old cousin was killed in the Korean War. His body was not recovered for some time, and his remains were never identified. But Padilla held tight to that picture, expecting that’s all he would ever have.

That all changed Monday morning while he watched the news on Arizona’s Family. “I had goosebumps on my arms, and I said, ‘That’s my cousin!” Padilla said.

Through dental records and DNA technology, his cousin was finally identified. His remains have been flown all over the world, but now, he’ll properly be laid to rest at home at the South Lawn Cemetery in Tucson. “Reading his bio, you know, he received a Purple Heart. Received so many awards,” Padilla said. “It felt so good just to learn they found his remains after all these years.”

It turns out that Padilla is the only other member of their family to have served in the military too, and their connection and bond goes even deeper than that. “I said, ‘Why did you name me Felix?’ Well, because that was my cousin’s name that got killed during the war. And I said, ‘What war?’ I was a kid. She said in Korea,” Padilla recalled. “Honestly, I think my cousin was there protecting me all this time during the Vietnam War.”

Private Felix M. Yanez. The namesake for Felix Padilla. “Now we know he’s safe; now we know he can rest in peace and be with the family itself,” Padilla said.

A feeling of pride and honor for a family that is now finally complete. “We used to say with the soldiers: boots on the ground, stand tall, stand straight, never give up. And you know, he never gave up,” said Padilla.

Felix Yanez’s burial is scheduled for Saturday, September 3rd, in Tucson at the South Lawn Cemetery. Padilla said he plans to be there and is now thankful to have much more than just a picture; he can now visit his cousin at his gravesite.