Eileen Sullivan Alber was just four years old when her father was killed in action on November 30, 1950 while serving oversees during the Korean War. At the time of his death, Joseph W. Sullivan was assigned to the 27th Artillery Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division near Kunu-Ri, North Korea.
“My father died a hero trying to save people,” Alber told News12 Connecticut. “I have no memory of him at all except a couple of pictures. I always wanted to have something with me of him.”
According to Indiana resident Roger Goodland, he came across an Army-issue duffel bag at a surplus store in 1946 and purchased it to use when camping. He’d noticed a name stencilled on it – Joseph W. Sullivan – and was wondered about its previous owner.
“I so many times looked at that bag and wondered who Joseph W. Sullivan was,” he said. “Before the internet, there was no way of being able to find him.”
Goodland found his answer while he and his wife were browsing the Korean War Project‘s website. They came across a plea from Alber, in which she asked for anyone with mementos or stories about her father to get in touch with her.
“When we found Eileen’s posting that was so touching, there was no doubt that that was where the bag needed to go,” said Alice, Goodland’s wife.
The pair were able to track down Alber via Facebook and arranged for the duffel bag to be sent to her from their home in South Bend, Indiana. It arrived in time for her 75th birthday and elicited a host of emotions.
“It was such a warm feeling to touch the handle of a bag that he touched many, many times,” Alber said.
EMOTIONAL REUNION: Video captured the touching moment that the daughter of a fallen WWII and Korean War hero was reunited with her father’s Army duffle bag after 75 years. See the full story tonight on the News at 10 p.m. pic.twitter.com/wUKpziFLaz
— News12LI (@News12LI) August 25, 2021
Recently, the Goodlands were able to meet with Alber via Zoom, where she shared her appreciation for their efforts in returning the duffel bag.
“My family is so grateful to you and Alice for blessing our life with this gift,” she said.