Remains of World War II hero return home to NC 76 years later

Remains of World War II hero escorted home 76 years after death

CATAWBA COUNTY, N.C. (WBTV) - The remains of a World War II Marine from Newton are finally back home.

PFC John Taylor Burke reportedly died fighting back in 1943, but it wasn’t until two years ago with new technology that they were able to locate some of the heroes’ remains.

On Thursday, the USO of North Carolina hosted a homecoming with full military honors at Charlotte Douglas International Airport.

“We’re here to meet my uncle who was killed in action in the battle of Tarawa in the south Pacific on November 21st, 1943," his niece Jill Henderson said.

76 years later, his family has closure they didn’t know they’d ever get.

“She said I’m calling to give you the best memorial day present," Henderson recalls. “And I knew what she was calling about.”

From learning he’d been found to seeing him coming home, they are moments to make up for a lifetime without him.

”You could see it in the pilot’s face, you could see it on the firemen’s face as they were shooting the cannons, you could feel it in the people getting off the plane that they were part of something," CEO of USO NC, Jim Whaley, said.

It was about honoring a man of the greatest generation.

“This was a young man that signed up for WWII at 17 years old," Whaley said.

“This proclamation designating today as John Taylor Burke day in North Carolina,” NC Secretary of Military and Veterans Affairs, Larry Hall, said.

Henderson said a poem at a cemetery in Tarawa describes it best.

“Rest warriors, rest. Against the day of journeying forth. Tender hands shall lift you out to home soil waiting.”

A procession by law enforcement led that hearse up I-85 into Catawba County where he will be laid to rest on Saturday.

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