Remains Of Returned WWII Soldier Laid To Rest

Saturday, June 9th 2018, 6:12 pm
By: Amy Slanchik

A soldier from Tulsa is now laid to rest, decades after he died in WWII. He was buried in a grave marked "Unknown" in Belgium until DNA testing confirmed his identity.

Finally, Army Private First Class Gene Sappington was able to come home. Gerald Bruner is Gene's nephew and his DNA is one of the reasons Gene's final resting place is Tulsa

"Fun loving, happy, every picture taken of him had that same smile like it was painted on. He was a very happy young man," said Gerald.

He was just 19 years old when he died in Germany while serving in WWII. That was in 1945, 73 years ago.

"73 years. It's amazing. Amazing. I was born about six months after Gene was killed, so I never actually met him," said Gerald

After seven decades spent at a grave in Belgium marked "Unknown," he was given full military honors at Memorial Park Cemetery.

With Bruner's fellow Patriot Guard Riders by his side it's a day full of mixed emotions, many family members have been waiting for their whole lives.

"It's an emotional rollercoaster. You're happy that they found him and amazed and proud of your country, but you still can't prepare yourself for that last moment," said Gerald.

Gene's parents are buried here side-by-side. The family says when they learned their son was missing in action, they bought a plot right next to theirs, with faith he would come home one day.

Now 73 years later Gene's niece, Norma, says those prayers are answered.

"When they got the news that he was missing in action, they began having prayer meetings at grandmother's house, every day," said Norma. "She always had faith that the Lord was gonna answer her prayers and bring Gene home."