The remains of an Alabama man among the 2,403 people killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor nearly 77 years ago have been identified, and his family is preparing to bring him home.
Water Tender 2nd Class Edgar D. Gross, 40, of the Carriger community in Limestone County, was assigned to the USS Oklahoma when the ship was struck by multiple Japanese torpedoes on Dec. 7, 1941. Gross was one of 429 men killed on board the ship when it capsized, according to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA).
Gross’ remains were officially identified Wednesday using mitochondrial DNA from family members, dental records, anthropological analysis and circumstantial evidence, officials from the accounting agency said in a news release.
“We never thought this would happen,” Gross’ nephew, Stephen Gross, told the News Courier in Athens.
Stephen Gross was one donor of DNA used to identify his uncle, but his genetic material was not enough, the newspaper reported. He told the News Courier he helped the military track down a couple of female relatives who also contributed DNA samples.
DPAA officials said the remains of the USS Oklahoma’s crew were recovered in an operation that lasted from the immediate aftermath of the attack to June 1944. The men were buried in two cemeteries in Hawaii.
The remains of the dead sailors were taken in 1947 to a military lab, where technicians worked to identify the men. Just 35 of the dead were able to be identified at that time, the news release said.
The men were re-interred in 46 plots at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, also known as the Punchbowl, and, in October 1949, a military board classified the unidentified, including Gross, as non-recoverable.
The Department of Defense in April 2015 issued a directive to exhume the remains of those unidentified Pearl Harbor dead to try once again to identify them using DNA and other technologies that were not available in the 1940s. The exhumations began that summer, DPAA officials said.
“Gross’ name is recorded on the Walls of the Missing at the Punchbowl, along with the others who are missing from WWII,” the news release from the agency stated. “A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.”
Accounting for the men killed on the USS Oklahoma is an ongoing process, with several identifications being announced each month. According to the DPAA’s Facebook page, at least 10 men were identified in August alone:
Navy Seaman 1st Class Joseph K. Maule, 18, of Broomfield, Nebraska, accounted for Aug. 8;
Navy Seaman 2nd Class Myron K. Lehman, 20, of Gann Valley, South Dakota, accounted for Aug. 9;
Navy Radioman 3rd Class Dante S. Tini, 19, of Virginia, Minnesota, accounted for Aug. 13;
Navy Fireman 3rd Class Robert J. Bennett, 18, of Monona, Iowa, accounted for Aug. 13;
Navy Seaman 1st Class Richard L. Watson, 20, of Crossett, Arkansas, accounted for Aug. 14;
Marine PFC Alva J. Cremean, 21, of Pueblo, Colorado, accounted for Aug. 14;
Navy Seaman 1st Class Earl P. Baum, 19, of Chicago, accounted for Aug. 23;
Navy Seaman 1st Class George E. Naegle, 22, of LaCrosse, Wisconsin, accounted for Aug. 27;
Navy Seaman 1st Class James W. Holzhauer, 23, of Virginia, accounted for Aug. 27; and
Navy Radioman 3rd Class Bruce H. Ellison, 21, of Poulsbo, Washington, accounted for Aug. 27.
The agency also works to identify the remains of those who served in other wars, including the wars in Korea and Vietnam.
Stephen Gross told the News Courier he was involved in the attempts to identify his uncle’s body from the beginning of the effort. He said he traveled to POW/MIA events and borrowed some of his uncle’s memorabilia from the Alabama Veterans Museum and Archives.
“I wanted to be able to show them to my mother before she passed away,” Gross said.
Unfortunately, his mother died last year, never knowing that his uncle’s body would soon be identified.
Ed Gross, already a Navy veteran of 16 years, was living in California with his wife, Pearl Marbut Gross, when he was recalled into service, according to the Alabama Veterans Museum and Archives. He was in the engine room of the USS Oklahoma when more than 350 Japanese aircraft attacked Pearl Harbor, sinking eight battleships, three destroyers and three cruisers. A total of 169 American aircraft were destroyed.
Pearl Gross received a telegram two weeks after the attack, which stated, “The Navy Department regrets to inform you that your husband, Edgar David Gross, is missing,” the museum’s website said.
The widow, who later remarried, died in January 1997 in Athens, online records show. She was 86 years old.
The remaining family members plan to bring Ed Gross’ remains home to Limestone County, where he will be buried in Evans Cemetery, the News Courier said. The cemetery is located near Mary Davis Hollow and Gross roads.
Gross Road is named for Ed Gross, according to the newspaper. The sailor’s nephew said he would like to see him buried on Dec. 7, the 77th anniversary of his death.
DPAA officials report that of the more than 400,000 Americans killed in World War II, 72,866 remain unaccounted for. About 26,000 of those are classified as possibly recoverable.
Judith Church of Massachusetts is on the hunt for a cherished item that her family believes was stolen from her car one week ago.
Church is searching for a bag given to hear after her son's sudden death in 2011, made from the Army uniform he wore during a yearlong deployment in Iraq.
"I have been going crazy; I'm searching everywhere," Church said.
Brian McSharry was a rookie Brockton police officer and a member of the United States Army Reserve.
"That was his last uniform, so I carried it with me all the time, and his best friend made it for me," Church said.
The last time anyone saw the bag was over a week ago, when Church's husband, Daryl, said it was in a parked car at a Rhode Island go-kart track.
"I think somebody went in the car, and they saw it in there and thought it had expensive stuff in it," Daryl Church said. "There's really nothing in it. It means more to her than it does to anyone else."
The bag is an easy one to spot, with "McSharry" and "U.S. Army" printed above the side pockets.
Along with those words, the phrase, "Smile like you mean it" is sewn into the shoulder strap.
McSharry's cousin, Kristy Brown, has been spreading the word on social media and said the family just wants the bag back with no questions asked.
"I would hope other people would hear about it, and If they saw it, just send it," Brown said. "That’s it. Things inside can be replaced, but the bag itself can't be."
A Navy veteran who is a quadriplegic has many health care needs. But he – and the people trying to help him – say the Veterans Affairs hospital in Seattle continues to reject him for care.
Mike Mikesell of Washington state is 49 years old. He’s a Navy veteran who was honorably discharged, according to a document from the Department of Veterans Affairs office.
He needs medical service so often he's living in a tent just feet from the VA Puget Sound Health Care System. Mikesell said he had a good-paying job, but then he got very sick and became homeless.
Mikesell said he worked at Boeing until he developed an infection while on a trip to Mexico in 2016.
“I went from that to this overnight,” Mikesell said. The infection spread to his spine and left him a quadriplegic.
“I’m dead from the armpits down,” he said.
Shortly after that, he lost his housing.
In October 2017, he started living in a tent just outside the VA Hospital in Seattle’s Beacon Hill neighborhood.
“I can’t leave the hospital because there’s always some ailment happening. It wouldn’t be this way if I could wash up in a bathroom,” Mikesell said.
Since becoming homeless, his situation has continued to decline. His reclining electric wheelchair is broken, and now he struggles with a manual one that doesn’t recline.
“I’ve been sleeping in this chair for a long time,” Mikesell said.
“It’s torturing me not to give me an electric wheelchair. I can barely move myself along the ground with this thing and it’s really made things really difficult just trying to get into the hospital. I have that hill to go up,” he said.
In June, Linda Soriano learned about Mikesell’s story. Soriano lives in Lynnwood and tries to help people who are homeless.
“It hurts me a lot,” Soriano said after learning about Mikesell’s story.
She and a friend, Pam Keeley, shared it on Facebook with Mikesell’s consent.
They detailed what Mikesell is going through – how he needs a catheter, a colostomy bag and deals with chronic infections.
“He suffers. He suffers!” Soriano said. “We’re not asking to treat this man like royalty. But that they would pay more attention and have a little more empathy and compassion.”
The Facebook post has been shared more than 11,000 times as of Wednesday evening. But Soriano points out despite all the shares, Mikesell is still living in a tent outside the VA.
“What does it take? Does this man have to die?” Soriano said.
She and Keeley contacted the office of Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., and a staff member helped Mikesell secure a visit with a doctor and got him a housing voucher.
But just hours later, Mikesell was back out on the street.
“He’s a high-needs individual, and many of our services, including the veterans' hospital, are not set up to take up these high-need individuals. He now is back on the streets and I think it is a tragic situation,” Jayapal said. “Mike’s conditions – they make it challenging for him to get housing. So even though he has a housing voucher, we can’t get him in.”
She plans to work on legislation that would bring more federal money to high-needs veterans.
But Mikesell can't wait for legislation.
He’s worried he won’t survive another winter.
“Hopeless,” Mikesell said with tears in his eyes. “I don’t know how much longer I can do this.”
The VA said Mikesell needs to sign a consent form before they can say anything about his case. As of Wednesday night, KIRO7’s Deedee Sun got Mikesell to sign the form and sent it to the hospital. The VA said it will provide more detailed commentary about why it is not able to provide the level of care Mikesell believes he qualifies for and deserves.
A spokesperson for the VA said the hospital will be contacting Mikesell directly to address his concerns.
In the meantime, it sent this statement:
“We care passionately about the health and well-being of our Veterans. We take pride in providing each of our patients with evidence-based medicine, and in our ability to help them understand the recommended courses of care as well as the programs and services available to them. Ultimately, it is the choice of each of our Veterans about the care they pursue. And we respect their rights and privacy about the choices they make. Veterans can find out more info about our services and programs by visit our website: www.pugetsound.va.gov.”
Jayapal said she is also working with Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., who represents the district where Mikesell lives, to follow up with his case.
A Massachusetts military mother claims someone is stealing coins from her son's grave.
Lynda Kiernan lost her 18-year-old son, Pfc. Becket Kiernan, while he served in California earlier this year.
Kiernan says she's just barely getting by, and the idea that someone may be stealing from her son's grave only adds more pain to her grief.
"There are very few places on Earth where I find any bit of peace, and this is one place that is peaceful to me," Kiernan said. "It's one of the only places where I know where my son is."
The 18-year-old Marine from Rochester died in February while serving in California after doctors diagnosed him with what they thought was the flu, but ended up being flesh-eating bacteria.
"By the time they found out, it was too late," Kiernan said.
Since his burial, Kiernan has spent countless hours at the Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne where her son's grave is covered in coins.
"I come here and I talk, and I talk to him," Kiernan said.
It's a military tradition for visitors to leave a penny if they knew the fallen. A nickel left at the grave means they were in boot camp together, a dime means they served together and a quarter means they were together when he or she died.
"It's just a more generalized sign of respect," Kiernan said.
However, over the last few weeks, the coins have gone missing, and at one point, they all disappeared. On a few other occasions, only the special coins have vanished.
"Another Gold Star mom whose son is buried here too came to visit Beck," Kiernan said. "She left a very special silver half dollar with him and I just knew, it's Saturday, special coin, and it's going to go missing – and within 24 hours, it was gone."
While cemeteries often collect coins to maintain the grounds or pay for burials, Kiernan says the cemetery director told her the groundskeepers may have blown away the coins while mowing the grass.
Yet Kiernan says that, based on how often the grass has been cut and the frequency of the coins’ disappearance, she's confident someone has been stealing them.
"It just makes me sick to think that someone thinks it's OK to take from him," Kiernan said.
She says she wants her pain to be a lesson for kids to never disrespect the dead while also hoping that whoever is responsible for it has a change of heart.
"I don't understand what's broken in them that they just see a coin and take it from an 18-year-old Marine who gave everything," Kiernan said.
State police say they have been stepping up their patrols at the cemetery and groundskeepers are keeping an eye out.
In a statement to WFXT, State police spokesperson Dave Procopio said a trooper assigned to patrol Joint Base Cape Cod, which includes the cemetery, has been monitoring the area. Other patrols have also been made aware of the situation and check on the area as much as possible.
Authorities are offering a reward for information in the death of a woman killed at Georgia's Fort Stewart while her husband was deployed overseas.
Abree Boykin, 24, was found dead in her on-post residence the night of July 10 by military police. Her husband, a soldier in the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry Division, was in South Korea at the time, according to Army authorities. Since his wife’s death, he has returned to Fort Stewart, about 40 miles southwest of Savannah, officials said.
Investigators believe Boykin was killed in an isolated incident, and it’s possible she knew her attacker, Army criminal investigation spokesman Chris Grey said.
“We have no reason or evidence to believe that the Fort Stewart community is at further risk related to this tragic death,” he said.
The Army Criminal Investigation Command and the FBI have put up a $20,000 reward for information that will help them track down and convict her killer.
“We are seeking the public’s assistance and asking for them to come forward with any and all information they may have regarding this investigation,” Grey said. “We are asking for them to do the right thing and contact us if they have any information whatsoever, regardless of how trivial they may think that information is.”
Special agents are also looking for Boykin’s black 2018 Honda Accord, which was missing from the home when her body was found. The Honda has the Georgia tag RLQ1762.
No other details were released due to ongoing investigation.
Anyone with information should contact the FBI Atlanta Field Office at 770-216-3000 or email Army.CID.Crime.Tips@mail.mil. Tipsters can also call 1-844-276-9243.
Tips can be submitted anonymously to the degree allowable under the law, according to Army Criminal Investigation Command.
A Georgia woman's search for the owner of a Marine Corps ring she found while visiting a Florida beach has gone viral.
According to WTVT, Suzanne Rogers found the ring, engraved with "PLT 1041 6/30/17" and "EL," while visiting Florida's Siesta Key on Sunday.
Rogers quickly took to social media to try to track down the ring's owner.
"Friends will you please share this post?!" she wrote on Facebook. "I found a Marine Corps ring on Siesta Key Beach today in Florida. I’m hoping to find the owner before we leave this week! Please share! If this is your ring, please message me! From what I can tell they were in platoon 1041 from Parris Island 2017. Please help me find the owner!!"
She also shared the message on Twitter.
By Tuesday morning, the posts had been shared hundreds of times.
The sign says, “Please return my flag, sentimental to me. I brought it back from Iraq. The bottom four stripes have my buddy’s blood on them.”
“This was very important to him,” said Kim Phillips, who lives in Tacoma, Washington. She said veteran Nolan Gomez, also of Tacoma, was doing some yard work when someone stole his American flag.
The flag usually flies on the back of Gomez's truck, but he took it down while using the truck to do some work and stood the flag up in a cone.
“He went to get gas or whatever, came back, it was gone,” Phillips said.
Only after it went missing did she learn its significance.
“That came back from the war with him and it was very important to him and that was his buddy’s blood on the bottom,” Phillips said, tearing up.
She said her family is also military, and her brother served in the front lines during the Vietnam War.
She decided she had to help make the sign in hopes whoever took it would see it.
Her neighbor took a photo of that sign and posted it in a Pierce County community page, where it’s been shared hundreds of times.
“It’s crazy, everybody is mad,” said friend Jill Thurman.
Since the post, multiple families have stepped up, offering their families’ American flags to the veteran.
“Yesterday, four boys came over, they folded it up and said this is our uncle’s flag, and we want to give it to you to replace the one you lost,” Phillips said.
They say it’s something incredible that came out of something heartbreaking, but they’re still hoping to help that veteran get his flag back.
“That’s defending us, all of us, our freedom. And he was injured in the war. So it’s another reason to get it back to him. If anyone knows where to look,” Phillips said.
More than 20 people were injured late Wednesday when a tent collapsed at Fort Hunter Liggett in California, officials said.
Here is the latest information:
Update 9:50 a.m. EDT July 19: Base officials said Thursday morning in a Facebook post that the 22 soldiers reported injured at Fort Hunter Liggett had been released to their units.
Update 2:26 a.m. EDT July 19: According to the military base’s official Twitter account, 22 soldiers were hurt when “a U.S. Army UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter landing’s rotor wash blew over a tent structure” in a “remote training area.” Officials said four soldiers were taken to area hospitals for treatment.
Contrary to earlier media reports, nobody was killed in the incident, officials said.
“This incident occurred during an annual U.S. Army Reserve exercise, Combat Support Training Exercise (CSTX) that trains Army Reserve and Army National Guard Soldiers,” the base tweeted.
An 83-year-old Pensacola man pleaded guilty to charges of theft of government funds and filing false and fraudulent benefit claims with the Department of Veterans Affairs, according to a news release by the United States Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Florida.
Richard Kohl claimed to have served with the U.S. Marine Corps during the Korean war, and he forged government documents, so he could collect $220,000 in benefits, according to a statement from the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Florida.
“By defrauding the federal government for personal gain, Kohl stole resources needed to help real veterans,” U.S. Attorney Christopher P. Canova said. “These benefits are meant for the brave men and women who have served our country.”
Kohl claimed he received a Purple Heart after being shot. He first filed for benefits in 1996, but the Department of Veterans Affairs denied it, saying it couldn't find his medical records.
In 2005, Kohl submitted a request for disability pension benefits and was accepted. They said he received more than $110,000 in pension benefits, plus costly medical care.
“Kohl never served in any branch of the United States military. Kohl used the false Form DD-214 as proof of his military service to obtain veterans’ benefits he was not entitled to receive,” the release said.
Kohl faces a maximum of 10 years in prison. The sentencing hearing is scheduled for Sept. 19, 2018.
A 25-year-old rookie firefighter from Massachusetts saved a man's life – while 30,000 feet up in the air.
Joe Manganaro is a Stoughton firefighter and paramedic who was recently promoted to sergeant in the Marine Corps Reserves.
Manganaro was on his way to California to conduct training with the Marines last month when his life-saving skills came in handy.
While aboard an American Airlines flight, a man began complaining of chest pains and showed signs that he was suffering a heart attack.
After no one spoke up when the captain asked if there were any doctors on board, Manganaro stepped up.
"I was looking around. I'm like, 'Seriously, there's no doctor here? There's like 200 people and no doctor. Alright, here we go,'" Manganaro said. "[The man] was really pale, sweating through his shirt. He was wearing a white shirt; he was drenched in sweat, out of it – he wasn't feeling well."
Manganaro evaluated the passenger's symptoms and was patched through to a doctor on the ground.
"[I] talked to him on phone, told him, 'Gotta take the bird down; he needs to go to a hospital,'" Manganaro said.
The pilot made an emergency landing in Washington, D.C. so the passenger could be rushed to a hospital.
Veteran firefighters say that, despite Manganaro only being with the department for a short time, they couldn't be prouder of one of their rookies.
"He was a little out of his element, you know we go in as a team here," said Stoughton Fire Department Deputy Chief Scott Breen. "He was by himself on a plane, thrown into a position he was probably a little bit uncomfortable with, but he stepped up."
Manganaro truly did step up and in a big way, saving a man's life.
"He [the passenger] sent me a message saying he's doing well, everything good on his end so it's really nice to hear he was very thankful and appreciative," Manganaro said.
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