BLAIRSTOWN, Iowa -- Seventy-seven years after an Iowa soldier went out on patrol, he is now home and laid to rest.
On November 26th, 1942, 27-year-old Laurel W. Ebert was on patrol in what is now present-day Papua New Guinea. He was with a team of eight soldiers looking to silence enemy machine gun fire. Ebert and five others on that patrol did not return.
The U.S. Army was able to finally identify Ebert’s remains through a DNA match from his nephew.
“I was born in 1944, two years after he was declared missing in action,” said Neil Neibes of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Neibes is the oldest nephew of Ebert. “The family got telegrams which said that he was missing in action. Later on they classified him as killed in action.”
The family never knew about Ebert’s acts of bravery while serving.
Ebert's military awards and honors include Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, Army Good Conduct Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with one Bronze Service Star, World War II Victory Medal, Presidential Unit Citation, Combat Infantryman Badge and Honorable Service Lapel Button-World War II.
Medals were presented to the family at a ceremony on Friday after the funeral.
“As of September 20, Laurel is now home. He has been buried next to his parents,” said Neibes. “This is just not a family, this is a community welcome back, a lot of veterans. This part of Benton County really supported our military.”
“We’re those individuals that provide that service to that family as if he died yesterday in combat,” said Master Sgt. Peter Moeller with the Iowa National Guard.
Neibes credited Moeller for going out of his way to assist the family in this homecoming in so many ways. Moeller said he stays busy working with families whose loved one's remains have now been identified thanks to a DNA match.