Finding long-lost servicemen, women our responsibility

One of the tragic consequences of war is death, and after it happens, families and loved ones have to bear the pain.

It never goes away completely, but having some sort of closure in the form of a ceremonial burial might ease some of that pain.

That happened recently when, 76 years after his death during the 1941 Pearl Harbor attack, Navy Fireman 2nd Class Lowell E. Valley was laid to rest with full military honors at the Holy Family Catholic Ceremony in Ontonagon.

The fallen sailor was escorted to his final resting place by the Legion Riders.

The 19-year-old, who had served on the USS Oklahoma during the attack, had long remained among the unidentified victims.

However, Valley’s brother, Bob, had worked for two decades to identify USS Oklahoma sailors with the USS Oklahoma Survivors and Family group, focusing on a group of 27 sailors who had been identified via dental records, although the information hadn’t been made public.

Lowell Valley returned home to Ontonagon after family members provided DNA samples.

Now all 27 sailors have been located, with only one yet to be buried.

“We never thought this day would ever come,” said Valley’s daughter, Sharon Valley Nelson, in a Houghton Daily Mining Gazette article.

Unfortunately, that probably can’t be said for every lost soldier, sailor, pilot or other veterans.

However, efforts have been made to identify lost warriors.

For example, DNA technology was used on bone fragments from World War I soldiers who served in France and Papua New Guinea.

“These soldiers made the ultimate sacrifice for our country so the least that we can do is try to identify them, give them the honour that they deserve and hopefully give some sort of closure to the families,” said Jodie Ward, a forensic DNA specialist at New South Wales Health Pathology in Australia, in an April 2017 online article for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

That quote pretty much sums it up.

We’d like to think that Americans don’t like to give up either, and not forget their fallen heroes.

It’s our imperative responsibility to account for as many long-lost veterans as possible. Remember: They gave their lives for our country.

If the United States sent solders, many of whom were only in their teens, off to war — sometimes in support of questionable causes — we owe it to them to return them home, even if it’s many years after their deaths.

The soldiers might not know it, except in spirit, but their families certainly will appreciate the effort. For some people, visiting a gravesite is a tangible way to remember a loved one.

Veterans should be remembered, not forgotten.