World War II veteran laid to rest near family after 7 decades

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DEER CREEK, Ill. (WMBD) — After 76 years, a Washington marine is finally home and buried next to his family.

The traditional “Taps” song playing on a military trumpet, Saturday morning, followed by the folding of the American flag signified Sgt. George R. Reeser finally had a resting place in Central Illinois.

After being brought back to Washington, Thursday evening, the veteran was given a graveside service, Saturday morning at MT. Zion Cemetery in Deer Creek.

The ceremony was flooded with support from both community members and Reeser’s remaining family. Lois Lauderback, Reeser’s sister, said this was a day she’s been anticipating for decades.

“We’ve been waiting 77 years for his body to return, so it’s fantastic what everybody has done,” Lauderback said.

Lauderback said she doesn’t have many memories of her brother as she’s only seen him once. She said she was 7-years-old in 1943 when he was killed in battle at Betio Island, Tarawa Atoll.

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency said Reese’s remains had been declared “non-recoverable” in October 1949. Lauderback said learning her brother’s remains were officially accounted for earlier this year was a shock the family was hoping for.

“We couldn’t believe it to be truthful,” Lauderback said. “But we were all happy and very glad and waiting for him to get back to Illinois.

The community was also in full support standing behind the marine. On the route to the cemetery, people were lining up on the side of the road with their hands across their hearts in honor of Reeser.

“These are our brothers coming back and sisters in some cases,” Wayne Kirkpatrick, chairman of Rolling Thunder, said.

Kirkpatrick said helping to bring Reeser and other veterans home to family is the culmination of what the Rolling Thunder organization stands for.

“This was a payday for us and I’m glad to be apart of it,” Kirkpatrick said. “Americans out standing on the curb, hands over their heart. It brings tears of pride to your eyes and that’s what we’re about.”

He said there are still more than 82,000 veterans from World War II still unaccounted for that they plan to help bring home. Lauderback said she’s glad her brother is no longer one of the missing veterans and he’s now forever in peace next to his parents.

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