It was a homecoming nearly 70 years in the making: The remains of a local serviceman feared dead during World War II have returned to Wisconsin soil.
Army Air Force Staff Sgt. David Kittredge, 22, of Oneida, was shot down during a bombing run over Germany. On Monday, dozens of Patriot Guard Riders escorted the cremated remains of Kittredge to the Nicolet Memorial Gardens in the Town of Scott.
"I just can't imagine, 70 years after the fact when David was killed,” Patriot Guard senor ride captain Mike Weaver said. “He's now home after all these years. In between were just very difficult. A lot of nightmares, a lot of questioning, never knowing."
[caption id="attachment_55581" align="alignright" width="300"] A photo of Staff Sgt. David Kittredge is displayed next to his remains Aug. 11, 2014, at Nicolet Memorial Gardens in the Town of Scott. Kittredge was killed in World War II, but his remains were found only recently. (WLUK/Eric Peterson)[/caption]
An Army honor guard escorted the tiny box inside. Kittredge's nephew Patrick Stordeur and relative Caroline Kittredge followed behind.
“No, I never thought it would happen,” Stordeur said. “So this is really something special.”
Kittredge was a radio operator on a B-26 bomber. His plane was shot down over Europe in the closing days of World War II. Defense Department records indicate Kittredge and other servicemen may have been found in Germany eight years ago. DNA and dental records confirmed the discovery.
“It's meant closure to me,” Stordeur said. “Because I wondered all my life about it. My mother was kind of wanting to come to a close in her lifetime.”
Stordeur's mother - Kittredge's sister - died two years ago. Stordeur says he was only five months old when his uncle was killed, but he said Kittredge wanted to be an attorney after the war.
“When he was in high school, my mother always said that he went down to these law offices downtown, into some lawyer’s office and read law books on Saturday morning,” Stordeur said.
Commemorative dog tags were presented to the family - a symbol of history almost lost.
“We understand the sacrifice. We understand the committment. We understand what has to be done to protect what we have in this country. It's just too important to not do it,” Weaver said.
There will be an official memorial service with full military honors for Kittredge on Wednesday. The ceremony at Nicolet Memorial Gardens begins at 2 p.m.