The remains of two Marines killed nearly 75 years ago at the Battle of Tarawa were recently identified and returned to their hometowns in Wisconsin and New Hampshire.
U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Raymond A. Barker was buried with full military honors Saturday at Spring Grove Cemetery in Delavan, FOX 6 Milwaukee reported.
"Seventy-five years later after he was gone, here we are celebrating this event," Barker's nephew, John Gibbus, told the station.
Barker was killed on the first day of the Battle of Tarawa on Nov. 20, 1943, at age 22. About 1,700 Marines and Navy sailors were killed and more than 2,000 wounded during the three-day fight against Japanese troops on the island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll of the Gilbert Islands, located in the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and Papua New Guinea.
Barker's body had been deemed non-recoverable, but last year scientists with the Department of Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) used "advanced investigative techniques" to discover areas on Tarawa believed to be burial sites for the battle's fallen troops. The government agency works to provide the fullest possible accounting of missing personnel to their families and the country.
"They discovered some bones and matched them up with dental records, and with DNA samples provided by family members," Gibbus told FOX 6. "That allowed them to identify the body."
The DPAA identified a second Marine from Tarawa who was also buried Saturday. Marine Corps Sgt. David Quinn, 24, was returned to his hometown of Temple, N.H., and also received full military honors.
A contingent of Marines awaited the arrival Barker's remains in the U.S., saluting his casket and placing it into a hearse, the station reported. Onlookers gathered to pay tribute, waving U.S. flags and saluting the fallen hero as his remains were transported through the streets of Delavan.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker ordered flags to be flown at half-staff on Saturday, in honor of Barker's service.
"These guys are giving the ultimate sacrifice to defend our right to be free," Don Lawrence told the station. "It's sad that somebody is coming home this way. I think it makes everyone here proud."
Barker, assigned to the 2nd Tank Battalion of the 2nd Marine Division, was buried next to his parents, the station said. A gold star had marked his place at the cemetery while he was considered missing in action.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.