The remains of one of the men killed in action in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 returned home Wednesday, landing at Tulsa International Airport.
Navy Fireman First Class Hadley Heavin was on the USS West Virginia when torpedoes and bombs destroyed the battleship. He died at age 23, and nearly eight decades later, his family is grateful for the closure.
At Tulsa International Airport, sailors saluted one of their own as he returns, one of the more than 2,400 lives lost during the attack on Pearl Harbor.
"We're finally bringing peace and resolution to the family," said Chief Petty Officer Robert Little with the U.S. Navy.
Nieces, like Helen Ege from Jenks and Linda Price and Janet Carr from Kansas, are meeting their uncle for the first time.
"To see the flag draped across the casket, I had to get down on my knee," said Ege.
Heavin's five brothers and one sister made sure the family knew about their hero.
"Just told us what a great brother he was and how close they were and how he was a boxer,” said Carr. “He was a boxer in the Navy."
The Baxter Springs, Kansas native’s remains were buried in a communal grave called the Punch Bowl in Hawaii, waiting to be identified.
The remains were identified last year thanks to the DNA of his living brothers, Rex Heavin and Charles Heavin, who live in Kansas.
"My mother always had the same thinking that I did that maybe someday that he might come through the door and be alive, but it didn't work out that way," said Heavin.
Charles Heavin said family is grateful for all the work it took to get them closure. He's been holding on to special memories for 79 years.
"I always loved Hadley very much,” said Charles Heavin. “He bought me my fist little red wagon when I was about seven or eight years old."
Hadley Heavin was awarded a purple heart a year after his death.
His memorial service and burial are this Saturday in his hometown of Baxter Springs, which is in the far southeastern corner of Kansas.
There's a VFW post there named after him.