CATAWBA COUNTY, N.C. — Almost 80 years after he was killed in the battle of Tarawa in the Pacific in 1943, Marine Pfc. John T. “Jack” Burke’s remains were returned to Catawba County Thursday, WSOC reports.
Burke got a police escort from Charlotte Douglas Airport, where over a dozen family members gathered and fought back tears, to Hickory.
He will be buried with full military honors Saturday at Catawba Memorial Park.
“We all wanted this for him because he paid the ultimate sacrifice for all Americans, not just for us,” said Jill Henderson, his niece. “If he and other veterans had not done so, I think we’d be living in a different world today.”
When he signed up to be a Marine, Burke was only 17.
Tom McNeely said Burke, his uncle, was shot and killed with 1,000 other Marines.
Burke was buried in a mass grave in the area where he was killed and interred later at the National Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii.
His remains were identified 76 years later because DNA was submitted by McNeely and another relative.
“It’s a great feeling to know that he’s gonna be back on the soil where he was born,” McNeely said.