LANSING, Mich. — First Lt. Robert Parker went missing during World War II when his plane crashed over Papua New Guinea. 78 years later, his remains were found and the soldier received a special burial on Monday.
The funeral took place at Gorsline-Runciman Funeral Home in Lansing. Parker's niece reflected on his life-- she was 3 months old when he went into the war.
"Robert Parker decided that day, I firmly believe he decided that if it was necessary to give up his life, he would do that," said his niece Carolyn Speedy Fuqua.
There was a viewing area in his honor and a scrapbook with letters and pictures from his time during the war.
In November of 1943, Parker was on a patrol mission in Papua New Guinea, when he encountered an enemy aircraft on the southern edge of Finisterre Range.
He shot down one plane, but collided with another and the impact tore off his plane's wing. He crashed down near Saagarak. When Parker went missing, he was only 23-years old.
In 2010, a team of third-party investigators visited an aircraft crash site in Morobe Province where they found a portion of a P-40N tail assembly and part of a possible tail number, both of which matched Parker’s aircraft.
The agency returned in 2019 and was able to negotiate with the village to take Parker's remains to the U.S. to run tests. They matched his DNA to family members using a DNA references system.
On March 9, Armed Medical Forces identified Parker as accounted for.
Carolyn said she doesn't remember her uncle, but she's heard stories about who he was. "He was fun-loving. And he had a sense of humor that the family said was outstanding. And in fact, he loved to play some practical jokes on people, but he was always kind. He was never mean about anything."
The funeral was packed with surviving relatives, veterans, and the Patriot Guard Riders were there to pay their respects.
"As a veteran to be able to stand for this officer who was lost so many years ago, and to be able to be reunited with his family, for us to stand in his honor, is just an honor for us to be here," said veteran, Mike Myers.
Lt. Parker's remains were carried in a horse and carriage to Deepdale Memorial Gardens, where he was buried next to his parents.
Parker’s name is on the Walls of the Missing at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial in the Philippines, along with others still missing from WWII. A rosette will be placed next to his name to show he has been accounted for.
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