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WASHINGTON (AP) - Thirteen World War II Marines
whose remains were discovered on a South Pacific island nearly 60 years
after they fell in battle were buried under gray skies Friday at Arlington
The sun broke through the clouds just after a
Marine bugler finished playing ``Taps'' and the chaplain of the United
States Marine Raider Association led a prayer with family members and
others attending the service.
``Today really signifies how the
Marine Corps takes care of their own,'' said Capt. Joe Kloppel at the end
of the service. ``This ceremony put a finalization on the sacrifice that
the Marines made for their country 59 years ago.''
It was a final
homecoming for the Marines killed during a 1942 raid on the Japanese-held
Makin Atoll in the Gilbert Islands.
An unsuccessful attempt to
recover the bodies of 19 fallen Marines on Makin, now known as Butaritari,
was made in 1949. The search was renewed in 1998 by relatives of men from
the 2nd Raider Battalion and other World War II veterans.
bodies, left on the small coral reef island after the two-day raid, were
recovered and identified two years ago when searchers found an island
resident who had helped bury the bodies as a young boy.
were returned to families for burial. The remaining 13 Marines were flown
Thursday from Hawaii to Andrews Air Force Base, where they were met by
relatives and U.S. Marine Raider Association members.
carried the flag-draped caskets to hearses bound for Arlington.
``They're finally home, which is where I want to be when I die,''
said 81-year-old Capt. Joe Griffith, the battalion's only living officer.
``They were good men and volunteers who did something over and above the
call of duty by attempting to further the progress of engagement.''
Vernon Castle is one of the Raiders who will be buried on the 59th
anniversary of the Battle of Makin, which was featured in the 1943 film
``Gung Ho'' starring Randolph Scott, Noah Beery Jr. and Robert Mitchum.
Castle's sister, Vivian Yoder, traveled with her husband in a
motor home from Hemet, Calif., to say goodbye.
``It will really
provide closure after all of these years,'' said Yoder, 78. ``But there is
something about military funerals that is always hard to take.''
Mary Baldwin of Spokane, Wash., said her husband, Robert, who died
in December, served with the men. ``Marines always take care of their
own,'' she said. ``It is extremely important for the men to be brought
home and honored.''
Among the 13 was Sgt. Clyde Thomason,
posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor during the war.
U.S. Marine Raiders: http://www.usmarineraiders.org/
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