It is never too late to give appropriate honor and respect to the men and women who serve our nation — especially those who sacrifice their lives for our freedom.
Our region received a poignant reminder of this truth recently, when the Daily News reported the powerful story of U.S. Navy Seaman 2nd Class Howard S. Magers of Merry Oaks in Barren County, who was 18 when he died Dec. 7, 1941, during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Magers was one of 429 crew members of the battleship USS Oklahoma who died in the attack, which killed more than 2,300 Americans overall and pushed the United States into World War II.
Sadly, Magers’ remains were not identified after being recovered, and he was buried with other fallen Americans in two cemeteries in Hawaii. A subsequent effort to identify the remains of U.S. personnel in 1947 failed to confirm Magers’ remains, and he was reinterred at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu. He was formally classified as non-recoverable in 1949.
In 2015, however, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency exhumed the remains of unknowns from the USS Oklahoma, and thanks to contemporary technology, Magers’ remains at long last were formally identified in December.
After nearly 80 years, Magers is coming home, with a military funeral planned May 29 at Merry Oaks United Methodist Church in Smiths Grove. Family spokeswoman Paula Ratliff Pedigo, who is working with Magers’ family, told the Daily News that Magers will be given a hero’s burial during Memorial Day weekend.
“We really wanted to give him a nice homecoming,” Pedigo said. “He will be given full military honors with a 21-gun salute. It will be a really special day.”
The service is slated to begin at 2 p.m. at the cemetery at 130 Merry Oaks Payne Road. The public is invited to join the funeral procession or to line the 20-mile route starting from Hardy & Son Funeral Home at 3098 Louisville Road in Bowling Green starting about 1:30 p.m. May 29.
Pedigo also said the public is welcome to adorn U.S. 68 with American flags and yellow ribbons for the occasion.
We applaud the DPAA for persistently pursuing the identification of the remains of fallen servicemen, who deserve to be in the care of their families. Magers’ identification is certainly a bittersweet moment for his family, who can finally bring him home and honor his service after 80 long years of waiting. We encourage all who are inclined to join the public portions of his journey back to Merry Oaks on May 29, and to show respect for his sacrifice on behalf of our nation.