Levelland sailor who died in Pearl Harbor to receive military funeral in January

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LEVELLAND, Texas — A military funeral for a Levelland sailor who was killed aboard the U.S.S. Oklahoma in Pearl Harbor will be held on January 19 in the National Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, Hawaii, the man’s niece, Carol McDonald, told KLBK News Monday.

Last September, Carol McDonald received a golden envelope in the mail.

“It was this invitation inviting me to a special ceremony at Pearl Harbor. They were going to repatriate the unknowns from the U.S.S. Oklahoma,” McDonald said.

The letter mentioned a family member who died in the attacks: Carol’s uncle, Fireman 1st Class James Oliver McDonald.

She called the phone number listed on the letter to find out more information. She learned her uncle’s remains had been identified.

“We just assumed he was buried at the bottom of the harbor — that they left all of the men there,” she explained.

For decades, hundreds of men who were killed on the U.S.S. Oklahoma in Pearl Harbor were buried beneath “unknown” tombstones.

Eighty years after those service members were buried, new DNA technology allowed the United States Navy to bring closure to the families of those who were killed aboard the ship. The Navy exhumed the bodies and worked to identify servicemen for more than 15 years, starting in 2005.

Carol received notification as next-of-kin and decided to rebury him in the National Cemetery of the Pacific, which is also known as “the Punchbowl Crater” for its volcanic history.

“I decided he should go back with his buddies. They created sections for the sailors from the ships that were bombed, so he will be re-buried in the section for the U.S.S. Oklahoma,” she said.

While she never knew her uncle, Carol said she’s grateful for his sacrifice. Her grandmother received a death benefit after James was killed, which helped fund Carol’s college education. She said she’s grateful for the opportunity to repay his sacrifice by laying him to rest in a way that honors his life.

Carol said she will fly to Honolulu to attend the funeral next weekend. The Navy will cover her travel expenses.

She said she’s looking forward to seeing the memorials for each of the ships that were destroyed on December 7th, 1941, including the memorial for the U.S.S. Oklahoma.

Her uncle’s name is recorded somewhere on the walls of “the missing” at the cemetery. A rose will be placed next to his name to show he’s been accounted for by a loved one.

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