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Jackson Co. Marine Corps pilot honored after 76 years

JACKSON COUNTY, Mich. (WLNS) - After seventy-six years of being missing, a fallen Marine Corps Second Lieutenant from Jackson County was laid to rest, and today his family members and friends say they finally have closure.

A sea of red, white, and blue, all to honor fallen Marine Corps Second Lieutenant Elwood Bailey.

“Seventy-six years after he died, we know what happened to him and we can bury him,” said Second Lieutenant Bailey’s nephew Wayne Tompkins.

In 1942, Second Lieutenant Bailey took flight to fight in World War II as a pilot.

“The Marine Corps were gearing up to send people to the Pacific for the campaign there,” said Tompkins.

But not long after, he along with five other American pilots intercepted enemy planes in the Guadalcanal where he was last seen heading back to base, but never arrived.

“We didn't know much other than he served his country as a pilot in the Marine Corps and killed in action, that’s kind of the assumption everybody had,” said Tompkins.

But then in April of 2015, a villager discovered a wrecked plane in the Solomon Islands with Second Lieutenant Bailey's remains in them.

Now seventy-six years later, Tompkins says it's comforting for his family to finally have answers.

“It's been a very moving and enriching experience and we're so proud to be part of it, and happy that we can get a chance to bring this all to a conclusion,” said Tompkins.

“I think this is one of the rare stories that we get to hear about,” said U.S. Navy Chaplain James Dewey.

Dewey says he was asked by the Marine Corps to help bring Second Lieutenant Bailey home and the experience for him has been heartwarming.

“It’s exciting to be able to be a part of this process of bringing a loved one home to be buried next to his family,” said Dewey.

Second Lieutenant Bailey will be buried at Chapel Cemetery in Parma right next to his mom and dad.    

“Putting him in the ground next to his parents. So we're bringing him home,” said Tompkins.

Although it took decades for a moment like this, Second Lieutenant Bailey’s family says they're forever grateful.


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