Navy Fireman 2nd Class Martin D. Young was 21 years old when he was killed during the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. Now, nearly 80 years later, his remains will be brought home to his native Kentucky and he'll be laid to rest on Saturday.
Young, a native of Hawesville, was assigned to the battleship USS Oklahoma, moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor. The ship was attacked by Japanese aircraft and sustained multiple torpedo hits before capsizing. Young was one of the 429 crewmen to die on board the ship.
His nephew, Layman L. Hawkins Jr., said Tuesday that he was contacted by the U.S. Navy about seven years ago, requesting DNA samples from the children of Martin's siblings.
"It had to be from the males, not the females," he said. "We submitted our DNA, about five of us, and they finally identified his remains last year."
Between December 1941 and June 1944, the U.S. Navy recovered the remains of the crew, and they were buried in the Halawa and Nu'uanu cemeteries.
According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, Young was unable to be identified when the American Graves Registration Service disinterred unidentified American remains in 1947. Young was joined by his fellow fallen sailors who could not be identified at the time and was reburied in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.
It was not until 2015 that DPAA personnel exhumed the remains of the unknown crewman of the USS Oklahoma for additional efforts at identification. For Young's family, these efforts paid off, and his remains were identified using DNA analysis. He was officially identified and accounted for on Aug. 19, 2019, 78 years after his death.
Hawkins said that while he and his four siblings never knew their uncle, he was their mother's twin brother and he was a part of their life.
"We talked about him all our life, so it is like we really know him, but we have never met him," he said.
Hawkins and family members will meet at Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport on Thursday to accompany Young's remains, escorted by Rolling Thunder, through his hometown and then to the Gibson and Son Funeral Home, at 315 Caroline St. in Lewisport.
The nonprofit organization, The Flagman's Mission Continues, is looking for volunteers to help place 600 American flags along the route from the funeral home to Lewisport Cemetery.
Organization CEO Jeff Hastings said services honoring American MIAs that have been identified and returned home is important, "not only for proper closure for the family, but closure for a piece of history that was never closed and closure for a community's history."
Those that would like to volunteer to place flags can meet at 3:30 p.m. at the Lewisport Community Center, 15 Pell St. It is recommended that volunteers bring work gloves and wear comfortable walking shoes. Volunteers should also be able to carry 10 pounds.
Lewisport Mayor Chad Gregory said Tuesday that he believes this will be the first memorial service of its kind in the city.
"Truly, I am very humbled that he is coming back to Lewisport," Gregory said. "I am honored to welcome him back to and honor his memory."
Hawkins said losing her twin was a tough blow for his mother.
"It really tore her up," he said. "I guess that is why she talked about him all her life."
Knowing that Young has been identified and will receive a proper burial near those who loved him in life, provides the family with a sense of closure, Hawkins said.
The funeral service will be immediately following the visitation at noon on Saturday. Community members are encouraged to line the escort route to the cemetery.
"We will always remember him," Hawkins said. "There are four people in our family carrying his name — my brothers' children and their children.
"That is how important it is to us."
This article is written by Nathan Havenner from Messenger-Inquirer, Owensboro, Ky. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the Industry Dive publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to email@example.com.