One of the Greatest Generation was laid to rest at the Rock Island National Cemetery on Thursday. Dwight Ekstam was just 21 when the B-25 bomber he was co-piloting crashed on a South Pacific island during a training flight in 1944.
While the mystery continued for nearly 70 years as to what actually happened to Ekstam and six other Marines, now there's finally closure.
Ekstam came home to the Quad Cities on a bright, breezy Flag Day. It was a fitting tribute to the fallen 2nd Lieutenant.
"There's so many chapters to this story," said Bruce Peterson, Dwight's cousin. "Each one is special in itself."
The military service on Arsenal Island came 68 years after the crash. When a POW-MIA team recovered his remains and other items from a dense jungle last year, the long waiting was over.
"You just assume you're going to be with the other 99.9% that never sees a closure," Peterson said.
This remarkable journey is complete thanks to determination and technology. It's a final chapter for the World War II veteran with compassion and care.
An officer's uniform was displayed to remember the Moline man who died serving his country. It would be placed inside his casket.
Fellow Marines offered an emotional salute that means so much decades later. There's pride, patriotism and a caring community.
"For us, it's a big day," Peterson concluded. "Emotional and very joyful at the same time."
A decades-long mystery solved with this final homecoming at the Rock Island National Cemetery.
Arlington National Cemetery plans to hold another service for all seven Marines on October 4th. Peterson plans to be there to honor his cousin.