Yet, with improved DNA technology more positive war veterans’ IDs are expected, so they finally can be brought home.
A World War II hero from the Coastal Bend has finally come home to a hero's welcome.
I had the honor of witnessing history – a relatively unknown hero who paid the ultimate sacrifice nearly eight decades ago finally was brought home.
A flag-draped casket can only mean one thing -- another final farewell – but Army Sgt. Herald Ray Boyd’s journey to his final resting place at the Coastal Bend Veterans Cemetery was an unusual one.
“He was someone we never knew,” said his nephew Larry Mayfield. “We just knew, we knew a picture of him.”
Mayfield wasn’t even born when his uncle “Ray” volunteered to serve in the war.
“It was something he wanted to do,” he said.
Mayfield was at Corpus Christi International Airport on Friday to welcome Boyd, a San Patricio-county native, home.
“When they notified me, that was a surprise,” he said. “Probably hadn't thought of him since my mother passed away in 2003.”
Boyd’s return home was one 77 years in the making. A gunner aboard a B-17 flying fortress during the Battle of Berlin, he was part of the famed 350th bombardment squadron of the 8th air force in Europe.
His plane was one of the 21 lost on Feb. 3, 1945, the day of the heaviest air attack. Three months later, Germany would surrender.
Boyd was 25.
Two months ago -- July 8 –Boyd's remains were finally identified after his DNA was positively matched to Mayfield’s and another relative, Michael A. Boyd.
Even though Mayfield and his brother Robert were both born after Boyd took his final breath, they were among the 17 family members on hand to welcome Boyd back from the battlefield.
Robert was caught off-guard by the poignancy of the moment.
“Well, I was filming with my camera and the first thing I thought of was ‘Hello,’ ” he said.
Hello, and goodbye.
Fellow combat veterans such as Joe Perez also welcomed Boyd home, despite not having known him or his family.
“I lost my cousin in Vietnam, too,” said Perez, who also is a Vietnam veteran. “But, I'm glad he's home.”
Phil Samporano's uncle, Dudley Ingraham, also died in that plane. He knew Ray well, Samporano said.
“We want to look back on them as superheroes, but they weren’t,” he said. “They had a job to do and they did it. They were just living in the moment which they were assigned in history.”
Now, we will never forget him.
“He's going to be special in my life for the rest of my life,” Larry Mayfield said. “However long as I live.”
Boyd was just one of the servicemembers unaccounted for from previous wars -- an overwhelming majority of them from WWII.