UPPER MAKEFIELD TOWNSHIP, Pa. (CBS) — An American hero was laid to rest Monday. A sailor killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor finally made his long journey home.
Family members say they are grateful to honor him with a proper burial. It was a homecoming more than 77 years in the making.
In December of 1941, Navy fireman first class Angelo Gabriele, of Trenton, was assigned to the USS West Virginia. During the attack on Pearl Harbor, torpedoes ripped through the battleship’s hull, killing Gabriele and more than 100 fellow crewman.
Gabriele’s nephews say the young sailor’s mother and siblings were devastated.
“Because it was so traumatic for the family, the family never really discussed it. We never talked about Angelo, we never talked about Pearl Harbor because she couldn’t handle the grief of it all,” nephew Peter DiPietro said.
Following the attack, Gabriele was one of 66 crewman whose unidentified remains were interned at the Punchbowl Cemetery in Hawaii. His name was placed on a wall there and family assumed that was all the closure they’d get.
But late last year, what once seemed impossible, became a reality. Thanks to a family DNA match, Gabriele was identified and ready to go home.
“Our parents, our grandmother, it’d be wonderful if they were still here to witness this,” nephew Leonard Gabriele said.
Gabriele received full military honors Monday as he was laid to rest at the Washington Crossing National Cemetery.
“This is about as close to closure as we’ll get and I’m thankful for that,” nephew Angelo Gabriele said.
Bearing the costs for testing, travel and burial, once again the U.S. Military lived up to their promise to leave no man behind.
“It’s an obligation we have to honor them and their sacrifice,” Deputy Commander of the U.S. 4th Fleet rear admiral John Schommer said. “But it’s also for the current sailors and current military members so that they understand that if they are in a similar situation that we won’t forget about them and we’ll do all we can to bring them home.”
Even though Gabriele is now being buried at Washington Crossing, his name will remain on the Walls of the Missing at the Punchbowl in Hawaii. There will be a rosette placed next to his name indicating he’s been accounted for.