PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — After 74 years, the community of Monongahela never gave up up their native son would be back and seven decades later, the remains of Army Air Force Sergeant Vernon Hamilton were carried out of First Presbyterian Church, emotions ran high.
“It’s our honor to be here,” said Jeff Paul of the American Legion Riders, Fayette City. “Not only my honor, but we’re all honored to be here.”
The Patriot Guard and American Legion Riders led the public procession through the heart of Monongahela. West Main Street was lined with residents waving flags and saluting the hearse of the young fallen airman on his way to his place of rest.
“Everything that happens, it hits the whole community, it doesn’t just hit one family or one person,” said Geri Hayes, a Monongahela resident.
Sergeant Hamilton enlisted before graduating high school out of a desire to serve his country. His bomber went down over Germany at the age of 19. From 1945 to 2016, he was considered missing in action until his remains were discovered.
DNA evidence provided the missing link and then finally, a family and community get to say goodbye.
“A bunch of great guys, they saved the country,” said Wilson Waters of New Eagle. “[It’s] the least we can do, I get choked up.”
Pride and honor swelled as many who served and many who remember felt a need to pay their respects.
“The first time it hit me was when I went to the Vietnam Wall in Washington DC and ever since then it’s all about them,” said Joe Matesich of Monongahela. “Everyone has a different story.”
Today, the storied life of a young man had its final chapter with full military honors at Monongahela Cemetery, where he was buried next to his mom who waited years for her son to return.