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Family fights Navy for return of WWII remains

Nov. 4, 2013 - 12:07PM   |  
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GUILFORD, CONN. — A Connecticut family wants the return of the remains of a family member killed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor nearly 72 years ago.

The New Haven Register reports that Tom Gray is fighting the Navy to retrieve the remains of his second cousin, 3rd Class Fireman Edwin Hopkins. He and his family want to bury Hopkins in a family cemetery in Keene, N.H., his hometown.

Hopkins’ remains were designated as unknown by the Navy and are buried in a casket in Hawaii with the remains of five other veterans. He was 19 when he was killed in the engine room on the USS Oklahoma.

The remains of five sailors were identified and returned to their families in 2002, Gray said.

“We want the same treatment for my cousin,” he said.

Trying to return Hopkins’ remains has been a “runaround,” Gray said. The family was asked to submit a DNA sample as proof of relation, which was done, he said.

“The issue is the reasons keep changing,” Gray said.

Gray said the Navy also claimed to “not want to disturb the sanctity of the graves.”

“That’s still the case,” said Sarah Flaherty, a spokeswoman for the Navy. “The grave has been disturbed a number of times. We don’t want to keep doing that.”

To help families honor the war dead, plans for a USS Oklahoma memorial are in the works, she said.

“We are committed to creating an honorable memorial and ceremony that befits the service and sacrifice of those brave men,” Flaherty said.

Gray rejected plans for a memorial for Hopkins.

“That’s not something we want,” he said. “He deserves better than this.”

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