Seaman 2nd Class Lewis Wagoner was serving on the doomed USS Oklahoma on the morning of December 7th, 1941.
Wagoner was among the nearly 3,000 American servicemembers who lost their lives in the sneak attack.
Now, some 75 years after the bombing, Wagoner’s remains were finally identified and returned home to his remaining family in Kansas.
It took so long to identify individual remains thanks to the horror of how many of the sailors were killed.
As the ship was taking enemy fire from the Japanese, Wagoner jumped off the USS Oklahoma into fiery waters filled with oil and fuel, a shipmate who survived the attack said, according to Longaker. The shipmate had told the family that Lewis did not come back up from the water.
In the aftermath of the attack, Wagoner’s remains eventually were recovered and buried in Hawaii along with hundreds of other unidentified men from the ship.
Wagoner’s family tried to have his remains identified but it was slow going. They did visit the the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Oahu in 2011 and were told Wagoner may be one of the unidentified bodies buried there.
“It was hard to see the unidentified headstones of these mass graves because they are people, they are a person, they are someone who is a member of a family — someone’s daughter or son,” she said in the AARP video. “I was glad to see there was something, but it was still empty as far as who is really there.”
Thanks to new technologies, Wagoner’s remains were positively identified in 2015.
Using modern forensic techniques to exhume the unidentified graves, the Defense POW/MIA accounting agency was able to identify Wagoner’s remains with the help of DNA from the father of Lorna Davis, one of his nieces.
Wagoner’s remains are one of the 59 sets that have been identified so far out of the 388 from the USS Oklahoma that have been dug up, Staff Sgt. Kristen Duus of the Defense POW/MIA accounting agency told FoxNews.com.
In early October, Wagoner’s identified remains were flown to Wichita, Kan., and he was given a memorial service with military honors at Harvey County’s Whitewater Cemetery. A bronze plaque denoting the Purple Heart that he received was placed on Wagoner’s gravestone, in a family plot.
“I’ve always thought about Lewis, he’s always been on my mind and it seemed like I could see him, I could see his body and remember it,” Carl Wagoner, the only living sibling of Lewis, said in the AARP video.
Lewis’ memorial procession – followed by hundreds of bikers — was met with a display of red, white and blue in the rural towns of Kansas and “people sitting in wheelchairs waving flags,” Mark Wagoner told FoxNews.com.