HANFORD, Calif. (KFSN) -- The flag-draped casket of Private First Class Royal Lawrence Waltz arrived in Hanford Monday for a ceremony at First United Methodist Church.
A large community turnout paid its respects, while family members offered an insight into Waltz's life through wartime letters he had written to his parents and siblings.
Waltz enlisted in 1941 and was at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked.
He survived that battle but two years later, was among the more than 1,000 marines and sailors killed during the Battle of Tarawa.
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His remains were recovered by a non-profit a few years ago and later identified through DNA testing.
Monday, he returned home to a hero's farewell.
"Not only did we receive his remains but we have received so much information around his death, his burial, where he has been and I think that has given us a lot of closure," says great-niece Cindy Garcia. "I wish the closure could have been there for his immediate family, his mom, dad, his sisters."
A motorcade procession from the church to nearby Grangeville Cemetary for a complete Marine Corps burial with military honors capped an emotional day for relatives who waited 78 years after the 20-year-old Marine went missing in action.
Waltz was laid to rest near his mother and other relatives.
"So amazing how the marines and the community have come together and honored our uncle," says nephew Donald Hanse.
A three-volley salute greeted attendees at the burial site while marines presented family members with the American flag
"Learning history in school was one thing but when it's a family member and it brings the 40's to the 2020s, it's a re-history lesson," Garcia said. "It makes you appreciate where we are today, our freedom for our country and all the boys over there that died for us, this freedom."
Memorial held for Hanford marine killed in World War II after remains found nearly 80 years later
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