Nebraska helps bring unidentified WWII casualties home

A ceremony at Lincoln Airport started the journey of still-unidentified remains back to their place of rest in Hawaii.

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – In 2015, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) started the difficult task of identifying the remains of 388 Sailors and Marines who lost their lives aboard the USS Oklahoma on December 7, 1941.

The DPAA maintains two labs to identify the remains of the fallen. One is in Hawaii, the other is located at Nebraska’s own Offutt Air Force Base. Their work has brought closure to the families of more than 332 Sailors and Marines, who were welcomed home after more than a half-century.

The ceremony held at the Lincoln Airport on June 24th is a bit different. These remains belong to those who could not be identified, or in some cases, to those who have been previously identified. In either case, they’re returning to Hawaii, to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, where they had been interred since the 1940s.

The ceremony honors the fallen, their families, and the work that brought them together. Kelly McKeague, DPAA Director, spoke to the difficulty of the task, and the outstanding results achieved after years of work.

Governor Pete Ricketts was among the attendees; he says he is, “…proud of the mission that helps identify these remains and helps return them to their families.”

Governor Ricketts also spoke to Nebraska’s unique role in bringing closure to so many families: “We’ve had some burials in the past because the work is going on at Offutt Air Force Base with the mission to be able to help identify these remains.”

When the remains arrive back in Hawaii, a second ceremony will be held to welcome them back to their place of rest.

You can learn more about the DPAA’s work identifying those who died on the Oklahoma, as well as those who have been the unidentified casualties of other wars here.

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