Military funeral

A WWII marine is carried to his final resting place during his reinterment in 2017.

Six years ago, I sat in a one-person newsroom in a rural town of 400 people. It was a nice May day, I had recently graduated college, and I had the world at my fingertips (or so I thought). I was writing for the county’s weekly newspaper, checking emails one early afternoon when I received one that stopped me in my tracks. The remains of a WWII marine from the little town had been found in the Pacific, was to be flown home, and was set to be reinterred during a ceremony at the local cemetery a few weeks later.

I spent most of that afternoon staring at his picture on the screen; my heart dropped to my stomach when I read the email. A young, handsome man in his Marine uniform. He died in the Battle of Tarawa, the email told me — a three-day battle that became one of the deadliest for U.S. marines in WWII. His body was buried in an unmarked cemetery on Betio Island. A volunteer organization had located and exhumed his remains, identifying him thanks to DNA provided by family who never had the chance to meet him.

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