OKLAHOMA CITY – The remains of a Marine that died December 7, 1941 in Hawaii returned to Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City Tuesday night.
Family members were on-hand, along with Marines for the honor ceremony.
Private Vernon Keaton was 18 when he perished aboard the USS Oklahoma as it capsized during the attack on Pearl Harbor.
His remains retrieved and interred in an unknown grave at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in 1942.
His body remained there until 2015 when Department of Defense ordered bodies exhumed and identified.
Using DNA analysis from existing family, Private Keaton’s body was matched and returned back to Oklahoma to remaining family and fellow Marines.
“It means a whole lot because my grandmother raised me and she always said he was coming home,” said Private Keaton’s niece, Sandra Lewis.
“It’s a huge honor for us to come out here. It’s been almost 76 years since this Marine has been state-side. I know it’s a huge honor for the family,” said Sgt. Devon Kennett of the U.S. Marine Corps.
Patriot Guard Riders were there to escort their fellow veteran to southeast Oklahoma.
“To be found identified and to come home finally 76 years later is a big honor for us,” said Patriot Guard Rider Ray Gehrig.
Private Keaton will be laid to rest in Lula, Oklahoma, on Thursday.