TRENTON, Ill. – They will be holding a homecoming Saturday in Trenton, Illinois for a World War II veteran who died at Pearl Harbor.
No one is still alive that personally remembers William A. Klasing but that’s not important to people there. What is important is honoring Klasing and the life he gave for our country.
“I think there are families everywhere that just want their loved ones brought back home,” said Jennifer Kuhl, Klasing’s 19-year-old great niece.
Up until now, Jennifer and Brian Kuhl and their three teenage sons only had letters and Western Union telegrams to remember her great uncle.
“He sacrificed everything, his entire life, for the freedoms that we have,” Jennifer said.
Klasing, a Navy Electrician's Mate 3rd Class, died when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
Klasing was on board the USS Oklahoma when it was torpedoed and capsized. His family didn’t learn he was dead until five weeks later.
“He has therefore been officially declared … lost his life in the service to his country,” Brian Kuhl said.
After removing the remains of sailors from mass graves in an island cemetery, the US Department of Defense used DNA and other methods to identify Klasing.
His remains will arrive in St. Louis on Friday. The gravesite in Trenton, Illinois already has his marker in place. Jennifer said Klasing will be buried next to his brother.
“That’s where my grandpa would want him – by his side,” she said.
Over the years, the family has re-read the letters between William and his parents. The notes recount everyday happenings in their two different worlds.
“They truly communicate the simple little facts that meant the world to hear from the other person,” Jennifer said.
Members of the American Legion in nearby Breese will participate in the arrival ceremony and burial.
“We’re taught when we first come to boot camp no one goes home alone and we don’t leave people behind,” said Post Commander Jeff Jung.
A few fellow World War II vets, including 95-year-old Wilbert Rolves, will also be on hand.
“(Klasing) fought for our country and he should not be forgotten,” Rolves said.
There are still almost 73,000 World War II veterans have yet to be accounted for; the identification process continues.