KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A casket carrying the remains of a sailor killed in action arrived at Kansas City International Airport Tuesday.
Seaman First Class Wilbur Newton was killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor more than 80 years ago.
Newton returned home to Missouri in a driving rainstorm, but his family and the U.S. Navy were there to make sure he had a hero’s welcome.
“This story is 80 years in the making and I never thought this would ever happen,” Newton’s cousin Robin Deeds said.
Family in both Kansas and Missouri knew of Newton’s ultimate sacrifice.
“I remember in junior high when it really hit me that she (her mother) had lost a first cousin in Pearl Harbor and no one really knew what had happened to him,” cousin Jane Perkins said.
But the only place family could honor him was with the rest of what became known as the lost 429 in Hawaii’s Punchbowl.
Unidentified remains from the U.S.S. Oklahoma were buried in 45 graves at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific until 2015. That’s when the military began the process of trying to identify them through DNA.
“I want to thank the aunt and cousins that gave the DNA because if it hadn’t been for those three we wouldn’t be here today,” Deeds said.
As the American Airlines plane landed in the rain fire trucks poured more water in salute. Then as the plane made its way to the gate the family was there and the Navy was ready to render honors in a downpour.
“It’s a huge honor to be able to bring these gentlemen back home after 80 years to finally give them the recognition they deserve and the closure for the families,” U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Andrew Mouse said.
Service members carried the flag-draped coffin to a hearse for a procession to Mound City, Missouri where Newton will be buried next to his parents who both died in the late 1940s. and his sisters.
People may pay their respects Thursday and Friday at the Pettijohn and Crawford Funeral Home. Then after Saturday’s memorial service at 10 a.m. in the United Methodist Church in Mound City, Missouri, he’ll be given full military honors at Mount Hope Cemetery.