OKLAHOMA CITY, OK (RNN Texoma) - Nearly 76 years after U.S. Marine Corps Pvt. Vernon Paul Keaton was killed during the attack on Pearl Harbor while serving on the USS Oklahoma, his remains are returning home.
"He was only 18 when he perished on that infamous day and he was fairly new to the Corps. We get quite a few Marines from the World War II era, but this is the first one from Pearl Harbor," Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Nicholas Brundige said it was an amazing feeling to help bring closure to Keaton's family.
Keaton, along with 428 of his shipmates, were hit by numerous torpedoes during the devastating surprise attack by the Japanese. The attack was the key contributing factor to the U.S. joining World War II.
Pvt. Keaton's remains were trapped under water until 1947 when the ship was raised and efforts were made to identify the bodies of hundreds of troops. Keaton's remains have been identified by modern DNA testing. He was brought home to some of his remaining family in Oklahoma City on Nov. 14th.
"He's my uncle… It means a whole lot. I was raised by my grandmother and she always said he was coming home," Sandra Sue Lewis said. "He's going to be buried right close to his mom and dad."
Firefighters recognized the young Marine's sacrifice with a water arch as his flight taxied on a secluded Will Rogers World Airport runway. Keaton's remains were escorted by members of the Oklahoma Patriot Riders to the Criswell Funeral Home in Ada. He will be buried with full military honors on Nov. 16 in Lula.