The recently-identified remains of a U.S. Army veteran were finally laid to rest during a special ceremony on Monday.
Atlanta native Hood E. Cole, 19, died in France in 1945. He served as a Private First Class in the U.S. Army, and was assigned to L Company, 3rd Battalion, 276th Infantry Regiment, 70th Infantry Division.
According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), Cole’s unit was attacked near Baerenthal, France by German soldiers on January 14, 1944.
“At some point during the fighting, Cole was killed, but historical records do not indicate exactly where,” the DPAA explains on its website. “Due to the fighting, his body was unable to be immediately recovered.”
Cole’s remains were declared non-recoverable on May 11, 1951 – but 72 years later, his family was informed that his remains were finally identified after a family member sent over a DNA sample to the DPAA in 2017.
Cole’s great-nephew, retired U.S. Army Sergeant Rusty Midkiff, said that his great-uncle was found in a forest that was mostly untouched since World War II.
“It boggles the mind how many people touched this case and how many people had to work together to try to find out what happened in Europe almost 80 years ago,” Midkiff told FOX 5 Atlanta.
“And when the Army briefs you, and they start telling you how all of this occurs, it is shocking the level of effort and commitment that goes into it,” he added. “It leaves you speechless.”
He also credited Cole with inspiring his own decision to enlist.
“He was 19. We could not say that he was survived by a wife and kids,” Midkiff said. “We’re not talking about the hopes and dreams that he had. He was robbed of that. But, he’s home now.”
During the ceremony, soldiers presented Cole’s niece – Midkiff’s mother – with an American flag. Her son applauded everyone who worked over the decades to get Cole’s remains identified.
“They never gave up…As a soldier, it’s important that you understand that when you deploy to fight for our nation, that no matter the outcome, they will bring you home,” he added.
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