It's been more than 77 years since Imperial Japanese forces attacked Pearl Harbor, killing nearly 2400 U.S. service members and prompting the United States's entry into World War II. Thanks to advancements in genetic technology, remains of the victims are still being identified today and families are being provided with long-overdue closure. One of the latest previously unknown victims to be identified is a sailor named Charles Gomez Jr., who will be laid at his home in Louisiana, WDSU reports.
Gomez was 18 years old when he enlisted to serve in the Navy on August 10, 1940. The sailor was serving on the USS Oklahoma in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941—the day Japanese aircraft dropped bombs on the military base. Two years later, he received a posthumous Purple Heart, but his remains weren't brought home to his family.
It wasn't until decades later that Gomez's remains were identified with help from two surviving family members. His sister and brother gave their blood in 2016 to be used in DNA tests. Both siblings died in 2017, but their children were present for the funeral service, which wouldn't have been possible without the DNA samples.
Charles Gomez Jr. was buried in the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Cemetery in his hometown of Slidell on June 3—what would have been his 97th birthday. He was laid to rest with full military honors.
Gomez is just one Pearl Harbor veteran to be identified and brought home in recent years. The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency exhumed the remains of nearly 400 military members in 2015, and the organization has since identified over 180 victims of the attack.