BRISTOL, Pa. (CBS) — A fitting and final farewell. A Bristol man was laid to rest in Bucks County Monday, more than 70 years after he was killed in combat in World War II.
Technology allowed the soldier’s remains to be identified, and now, he’s back home.READ MORE: Man Killed In Apparent Road Rage Shooting In Springfield, Authorities Say
A U.S. soldier killed during World War II was buried without a name in Belgium for decades.
“We’re talking 70 some years later and we haven’t forgotten,” Fort Dix Chief of Casualty Mario Mena said.
Army private Walter G. Wildman went missing in action on Nov. 13, 1944, while fighting near the German border. His death was reported in a local newspaper but his body was never identified until new technology, including DNA analysis, helped scientists link the remains of an unknown serviceman to Wildman this past January.
“This was a story that was lost and it has a closing chapter,” Bucks County Commissioner Bob Harvie said.
The Bristol Borough native was only 20 years old and never had any children. Chris Wildman is his second cousin.READ MORE: GUIDE: Where To Watch Fourth Of July Fireworks In Philadelphia Region
“As a veteran myself — my father was a veteran who served in Korea — I think being here is very important,” Wildman said.
On Monday, Wildman’s casket was escorted to its final resting place inside Washington Crossing Cemetery. Dozens gathered for a traditional military salute in his honor as the flag on his casket was presented to his family.
The Cowalt brothers, both veterans themselves, knew Wildman’s brother growing up.
“It is unbelievable that they were able to put this all together after 80 years. And there’s many more of them still out there,” Joseph Cowalt said.
According to the Department of Defense, there are still more than 72,000 soldiers and civilians unaccounted for from World War II.
Now as this community of Bristol and many who have also served come together to remember a young man who made the ultimate sacrifice, there is comfort in this final goodbye.MORE NEWS: Family Members Identify 21-Year-Old Woman Killed After Disgruntled Patron Opened Fire In Northeast Philadelphia Bar As Jailene Holton
“Never forget and don’t lose hope because almost 80 years in the making he’s finally home,” Rosemarie Mignoni-Szczucki said.