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NEWS | Nov. 23, 2022

Army Reserve Soldiers provide repatriation funeral honors to long-missing World War II hero

By Sgt. Salvatore Ottaviano 99th Readiness Division

Army Reserve Soldiers stationed in New York lent a hand to honor a long-missing casualty of World War II Nov. 19 at St. John Catholic Cemetery here.

First Lt. John Joseph Heffernan Jr. served in the 490th Bombardment Squadron with the U.S. Army Air Corps. On Feb. 22, 1944, at age 24, he and six crewmates were lost when their B25G bomber caught fire and crashed into a field in Burma.

“We volunteered today to honor not only a fallen comrade, but also a fellow New Yorker,” said Warrant Officer 1 Sainah Theodore of the 151st Theater Information Operations Group in Fort Totten, New York, who took part in the funeral ceremony with the honor guard.

From January to March 2019, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency conducted a recovery mission at the crash site of Heffernan’s bomber in Burma, now known as Myanmar.

On Nov. 2, 2021, the DPAA positively identified Heffernan’s remains through DNA technology, from among those recovered.

Heffernan’s casket, which had a container of his identifiable remains placed inside, was lowered into his family plot. An Army Reserve bugler from the 78th Army Band played taps as the color guard stood at attention wearing the new Army green World War II-style uniforms.

Heffernan’s repatriated remains were interred with full military funeral honors.

“Generally, our Soldiers are always ready to volunteer their time, to remember and to honor the ones who have fallen," Theodore said. "His remains were found, and we had to bring him home."

Second Lt. Jaemin Chun of the 200th Military Police Command's 423rd Military Police Company from Shoreham presented the flag that covered Heffernan’s casket to his nephew, Andrew McVeigh, and stated that on behalf of the president, the U.S. Army and a grateful nation, “please accept this Flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one's honorable and faithful service.”

“I hope that this brings peace to the family,” said Theodore.