NORMAN, Okla. – A Norman family is getting closure after 76 years as they prepare to retrieve the remains of a lost family member who died in War World II.
DJ Gentry got a call from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency four years ago while she was at work. Through ancestry.com, Gentry was told she was linked to a soldier by the name of Private Vernon “Buck” Keaton.
She tells News 4, Keaton was her late mother’s cousin who enlisted with the U.S. Marine Corps.
“She was 11 and he joined the marines. This was World War II. He quit high school to join the marines and make a living for his family, because his dad had been really seriously hurt in an accident,” explained Gentry.
Private Keaton was killed on the U.S.S. Oklahoma, which was on Battleship Row in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
“My mother always spoke highly of him. He was a really kind young man and she said he had the curliest hair you ever saw, so she thought really highly of him,” explained Gentry. “The family always thought he was lost in the carnage. We did not know his body actually existed.”
It turns out, the body has been buried in Honolulu for the past seven decades among others in mass graves. Gentry says the officials have decided to disinter all of the unidentified bodies and return it to their families upon proper identification.
“It was very surreal in the beginning. You don’t know if this is in fact a true caller or a bogus but then once I figured out that they were telling the truth, it became almost overwhelming,” said Gentry. “This just brings more realism to me about our country, our military and the sacrifices that were made.”
Gentry will meet with a forensics team from Quantico, Virginia on Saturday to make final preparations. She says a sergeant from Tinker Air Force Space will fly to Honolulu to receive the body.
He will eventually be buried in Oklahoma.