DES MOINES, Iowa- Area residents, law enforcement, and a contingent of United States Marines helped to welcome home a fallen hero.
Channing Robert Whitaker, of Granger was killed in action on November 22, 1943 in the Pacific Theater of World War II. He was in a battle during the 2nd Marine Division’s invasion of Betio Island, Tarawa Atoll, Gilbert Islands (now part of the Republic of Kiribati). His unit lost 57 men during the assault on Betio. Forty-six of these men were killed during the fighting on 22-23 November.
Thanks to Marines working with families, his remains were identified through a DNA match. They contacted his niece, Marla Brubaker, who lives in Arkansas.
She was glad to fulfill their request, but didn’t expect anything to come of it.
“Then I got the call,” said Brubaker. “It’s coming true, it is true, the bones are here, he is home with his Mom, that’s very special to me.”
The soldier, who joined the Marines only with his Mom signing a paper. He was only 17 when he joined. He was killed when he was 18 years old.
The family participated in a solemn welcome as Whitaker’s casket was taken off a Delta flight from Atlanta. Then a long police escort led the soldier and his family members away from the airport to a Des Moines funeral home. There a large fire truck raised a flag overhead. Patriot Guard riders rode the caravan, and stood at attention as the Marine Honor Guard unloaded his body.
An internment service for the hero soldier will be held on Friday in Des Moines.
“This Friday at 2 o’clock. at Glendale Cemetery, we’re having just a graveside service,” said Brubaker. “We’re hoping that everybody will come and show him the honor that he deserves.”