BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — The remains of two World War II veterans from Minnesota who died in combat will finally be returned to their respective hometowns this Memorial Day weekend, nearly 72 years after their deaths.
Navy machinist John Anderson, 24, of Willmar, never received a proper military funeral after he was killed on the beaches of Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944, D-Day. But after decades of waiting in an unknown grave, he will be laid to rest thanks to the efforts of his surviving relatives, a Willmar military historian and a Minnesota lawmaker, KARE-TV reported.
In 2009, Anderson's family learned of a new lead in his death, which led them to believe he was buried at Normandy American Military Cemetery.
After requests to the federal government for DNA testing were denied, another request to test the remains in the unknown grave was submitted to a Department of Defense division, along with a letter of support from U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.
In 2015, his remains were disinterred from the unknown grave in a Normandy American Military Cemetery, and then positively identified at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska.
Anderson's remains will arrive at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and will be escorted by a military procession to Willmar on Thursday. A public memorial service and an interment will be held in Willmar on Saturday.
Army Pvt. John Sersha, 20, of the Leonidas area, was killed while he was on a dangerous assignment in a German-controlled area of the Netherlands in September 1944.
Sersha's family also worked tirelessly to get an official confirmation on remains that were buried for about seven decades in an unknown grave at the Neuville Military Cemetery in Belgium, the Mesabi Daily News reported.
In 2015, the grave was exhumed and the remains were transferred for analysis to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, which determined that they matched Sersha.
A planeside honors ceremony was held Tuesday at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport as Sersha's remains returned home to Minnesota. A visitation and a memorial service will be held this weekend in Virginia, and then his remains will be buried Saturday in Eveleth.