NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Full military honors will be given to a Louisiana sailor whose remains have been identified more than 75 years after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
The remains of Navy Seaman 2nd Class Charles C. Gomez Jr., of Slidell, were accounted for Sept. 19, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced Friday.
Gomez was assigned to the USS Oklahoma battleship on Dec. 7, 1941 when Japanese aircraft attacked it at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor. Among the more than 2,300 American military personnel killed that day were 429 USS Oklahoma crewmen, including then-19-year-old Gomez.
His family was informed of the identity match earlier this week.
"I still can't believe it," said Charles Fogg, Gomez's nephew. "It's unbelievable after all this time."
Fogg, 65, of Pearl River, La., never met his uncle but often heard his mother and her siblings talk about him during family gatherings.
“As a kid, I’d often hear my grandpa say, ‘Pray for my son to be found.’ I guess I was 6 or 7 at the time. But it all comes in God’s time, I guess,” he said.
Until now, Gomez’s remains had been interred among 46 plots at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu. His name is recorded on the Walls of the Missing at the site. Officials say a rosette will be placed by his name to indicate he has been accounted for.
Fogg said the DPAA took DNA samples from his mother and one of her brothers to help identify the remains.
"We were hoping the identification would happen in their lifetime," he said. "We almost made it. Both of them recently passed away."
Fogg said a memorial service will be held at the Veterans Administration facility in Slidell on June 3, 2019, on what would have been Gomez's 97th birthday.
“That gives us time to really plan it and line things up right and give family time to get here. We’re really excited about it. He’s going to get full military honors,” he said. “We’re looking forward to it. It’s a sad but exciting time, knowing that he’s finally coming home.”