DES MOINES, Iowa -- When a Delta plane landed at Des Moines International Airport, it looked like an ordinary flight. Inside of the hangar was a precious passenger who reserved his seat more than 75 years ago.
William H. Kennedy died when he was just 24 years old. He was aboard the USS Battleship Oklahoma when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7th, 1941.
It took almost 3 years to find the remains of more than 400 sailors killed on that ship. But only a small number of those could be identified. Thus, they were labeled unknowns and buried in Hawaii.
50 years later, the Navy wanted to send them back to their families. In 2003, they ran DNA test to determine the identities of those who died.
Starting in 2015, they began sending them home and that is how Kennedy made it back to Iowa. Chris Beeler is the funeral coordinator for the Navy reserves and he tells us this is the most important his office does.
“It is and like I said I enjoy because when we show up, just look at the family. They are excited and we are just as to give them the honor. It’s a good program,” said Beeler.
Kennedy’s family made it Thursday to bring him back to Titonka and give him a proper burial. It’s over 2 ½ hours away from the metro but the whole way they will have company. The Patriot Guard Riders will escort them and they say it’s the least they could do to honor Kennedy.
“Absolutely, that is what we tell the family. When they come up to shake out hand, they say something. I always tell them, It’s my honor to be here to give honor to your fallen one,” said John Willard, Patriot Guard Riders.
Kennedy’s service will be held Friday morning at 10. Then he will be buried at the cemetery in Titonka, next to his mother, where family members say he always belonged.