WASHINGTON, N.C. (WNCT) — A Beaufort County veterans’ remains are finally making their way home.
Howard Hodges died in World War II and was missing in action until recently. Hodges’ family had almost given up on ever bringing his body home. Now, they get to properly lay him to rest in his hometown of Washington.
“Even after all this many years it’s still like a dream come true,” said Helen Martikke, Hodges’ sister. “He was one of 15 children. He was number five and I’m number 14.”
Hodges died at the age of 20 during the attack on Pearl Harbor December 7, 1941. He lost his life while trying to put out a fire aboard the U.S.S. West Virginia. Martikke was only four at the time.
“I wish that I could say that I remember him, but I was too young and I really don’t,” she said. “We tried to keep his memory alive and we’ve tried to do everything we could to help you know locate him.”
Martikke and her living siblings got in contact with the Navy back in 2010 to try to help identify Hodges’ remains.
“I sent a sample of blood,” said Martikke. “Some of my brothers sent the little cheek swabs.”
In October 2020, they got the call that their DNA had a match.
“I had my doubts, but yet I was really thinking maybe this is true,” said Martikke.
Eighty years after his death, Hodges is finally coming home.
“We had just about given up hope, but not completely,” said Martikke. “I don’t think we ever completely gave up hope. I wish that it could’ve happened in my parents’ lifetime, but it’s just to us the most incredible news that we could ever receive and we’re just so thrilled that we can bring him home is the main thing.”
Hodges’ remains will be escorted from Norfolk, Va.,, to Beaufort County on Tuesday. His funeral will be held on Saturday.