Ceremony held to honor USS Oklahoma soldiers’ remains

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A solemn ceremony at Punchbowl is the first step in what could bring relief for families who lost loved ones on Dec. 7, 1941.

There was a ceremony for the dignified transfer on Monday morning.

An Honor Guard made up of members from each military branch escorted the remains of men killed nearly three quarters of a century ago while serving on board the USS Oklahoma.

“The remains will go to our lab right here in Hawaii. We will go through some cleaning and some dental processing, and then the remains will go to our lab in Omaha for fuller accounting,” said Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency director Michael Linnington.

One by one, the Honor Guard took five caskets from Punchbowl grounds. Some of the graves are co-mingled, so it’s not clear how many will be identified.

Officials said they’re confident they’ll be able to identify all the remains.

“The families are still suffering, so we’re here to make sure that we honor their memory, and we also do everything that we can to ensure that the remains are handed back to the loved ones,” said Gene Maestas.

The area of Punchbowl where the dignified transfer took place is called the unknown section and you don’t have to look far to find out why. Several grave markers, just feet away from each other, pay tribute to the unknowns from USS Oklahoma.

This dignified transfer starts the process of trying to identify all the service members killed in the Dec. 7 attack.

“We’re on pace. I think we will be done with the disinterments in October and then obviously the work has already started, but the work will continue over the next couple of years for the full accounting of all 388 Sailors and Marines,” said Linnington.

It’s a process that could take years, but will give many families a lifetime of peace.

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