NEW KENSINGTON (KDKA) — A hearse bearing the remains of tail gunner Jack Yeager approaches Walker Funeral home in New Kensington.
The Marine corporal died, with six fellow crew members, when their Navy bomber went down on a Pacific island near the end of World War II. Fellow Marines bear his casket into the building.
“This is our family,” says Marine Staff Sergeant Andrew McCormack. “We do it because we know that when it’s our time, fellow Marines will do the same for us. It’s always been that way, and it always will be that way. It’s what we are.”
Marilyn Claassen and Jack Smith never knew their Uncle Jack. But Jack Smith’s brother, Bernie, is old enough to remember.
“He was searching the internet,” Marilyn says, “and he found that they needed a relative of Jack Yeager. And he called me, and said they’re looking for DNA.”
Her DNA matched. Yeager’s widow, Marilyn’s godmother Helen Yeager, eventually remarried, and had children. But she remained close to the family of a hero, missing in action.
“She always stayed in touch with our grandparents . They were there for holidays, all those years. So even her second family was part of her family, too.”
The whole community is family, at a time like this. “He’ll always be important to us.”
“The soldier will be laid to rest in a special ceremony at Saint Mary Cemetery in Lower Burrell on Saturday morning. He will be buried right next to his mother and his father. After 68 years missing, Corporal Yeager will be home at last.