THOMPSON (AP) — The remains of a U.S. soldier who died fighting in World War II have been returned to his native Iowa more than 70 years after he was buried as an unknown at an American military cemetery in France.
Iowa Army National Guard members fired a 21-gun salute on Saturday to honor Army Pvt. Donald Brown, who was buried at a cemetery in Thompson, the Mason City Globe Gazette reported.
Brown joined the Army in 1942 and died two years later when his tank was destroyed by enemy fire near Cambernon, France. He was 24 at the time and his remains couldn’t be identified.
Brown’s name was recorded alongside other missing veterans at an American Battle Monuments Commission site in France. His grave was marked unknown in the Normandy American Cemetery for decades, but his remains were dug up last year for research on soldiers missing from combat after his family members submitted DNA for testing.
Brown’s niece, Joyce Sorensen, received a call a few months ago saying that her uncle’s remains had been identified.
“It was a surprise,” she said.
Sorensen was among more than 80 people who attended the Saturday ceremony, where American flags lined the cemetery driveway.
“What was emotional for me was seeing the honor, the show of patriotism,” she said.
Iowa Army National guard members gave a folded American flag from Brown’s casket to his niece, Alison Conrad.
“I regret that no one from his generation could see this,” Conrad said. “It’s an amazing an important event for our family to experience. What a country we live in that wants to never let a soldier get left behind.”