75 years after WWII death, Indiana native laid to rest near brother

ERLANGER, KY (FOX19) - A World War II sailor killed in combat is now back at home 75 years after his death.

When Thomas J. Murphy's niece, Chantel Oliver, got the phone call about his remains being found she, at first, didn't believe it was real. Now she and the entire family are happy he's home.

Dozens of motorcycles rolled into the CVG airport Friday afternoon waiting for the remains of Murphy to fly in from the Tarawa Island in the Pacific.

"I just never thought this day would come," said Oliver.

Her Uncle Tommy was a Navy Pharmacist. He was shot and killed at the age of 22 during a battle in the Pacific Theater.

"His name was never mentioned to us because it was so painful for my father, so when my mother died in 2011 we were clearing out family things. I came across a purple box and a news clipping," said Oliver.

When she found the items, she never knew that he didn't have a proper burial until getting a call from the Navy in October.

"I was like are these people for real? How do you know they're not fake. How do you know it's really happening? Then when I saw the Navy in my sister's living room I realized this was really happening," said Oliver.

As the motorcycles filed down the road at the airport, no one would be able to tell that Murphy only has a few family members left. The family put the word out to the Ohio Patriot Guard hoping to give him a grand homecoming this Memorial Day weekend.

"It's a great tribute to honor all the veterans who have paid the ultimate sacrifice, death in serving our country," said David Downie with the Ohio Patriot Guard.

Dozens who never met Murphy or heard his story lined up in the procession on Friday to escort his remains to the Zettler Funeral Home. Murphy's family was touched by the large turnout.

"This is a perfect example that after 75 years they're not forgotten," said Chris Huentelman, the sailor's great nephew.

Murphy's brothers and sisters in the Navy also were involved in the ceremony. They carried his remains into the funeral home allowing the Greendale, Ind. native to be laid to rest next to his brother.

"We have closure now that we are able to have his remains brought back and laid to rest next to my grandfather and for that, I'm grateful for everyone that's involved," said Huentelman.

Murphy's Visitation will be on Sunday from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m. The funeral will take place on Memorial Day at 11 a.m. Both events are open to the public.

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