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World War II veteran laid to rest nearly 8 decades later

Private First Class Marine Thomas F. Johnson, laid to rest in Igo at the Northern California Veterans Cemetery. His remains were discovered last year, 77 years after he died in battle retrieving ammo for his battalion.

Posted: Nov 24, 2020 12:10 AM
Updated: Nov 24, 2020 8:15 AM

IGO, Calif. - A fallen World War II Marine is finally laid to rest after excavators discovered his remains last year.

A service 77 years in the making, Thomas Frank Johnson, a fallen Marine from World War II was finally laid to rest at the Northern California Veterans Cemetery in Igo.

"It means he's finally home. He's resting comfortably now," said Fred Loveland, a Navy veteran.

"Just being here in the Redding area and doing this has been such an honor, and so, so blessed for it," said Richard Raker, a Marine veteran who served from 1959 to '63.

"Lay this veteran to rest, but to also bring him home," said Mark George, the State Cemeteries Operations Manager who served as an army tanker from 1990 to '97.

RELATED: Fallen World War II Marine comes home 77 years later

Johnson and his family were escorted from Sacramento to Igo, an escort Loveland was a part of.

"We need to bring them all home, it's such an emotional day, and this has been an emotional week it was just emotional," he said.

But before Johnson was buried, his remains were missing for 77 years in the South Pacific.

"The area that we actually found Thomas in, he was underneath a house that was built in the '50s," said Jordan Windish, an osteoarchaeologist with History Flight, the non-profit that excavated and brought Johnson's remains back to the states. "It had a concrete slab foundation not many buildings on Tarawa do. He was actually protected."

For Windish, every day is a reminder of all the others still missing.

"His pictures along with other marines that are missing in our repository every day at work, you go into work, you see their picture, and then coming through and meeting the family," she said. "Seeing their appreciation, it's priceless."

George also has brothers who served, so this service is special to him.

"I'm the youngest, and he's the youngest out of the three brothers so, it definitely stirred some emotion in me," he said.

"I think that goes with all branches of the service," said Loveland. "Leave no one behind."

The family did deny an interview, but they told me that Thomas's other older brother Kenneth also lays here and that they're happy that both of them are finally together again, 77 years later.

Hugh, Thomas's other brother, died just one day before him on the same island in 1943. Excavators continue to look for his remains.

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