A Beloit World War II veteran finally is getting the send-off he deserved after being away from home for more than 75 years.
U.S. Army Sgt. Robert W. McCarville, 24, died in combat Dec. 5, 1942, during an assault against the Japanese in modern-day Papua, New Guinea, during the Battle of Buna-Gona.
On Thursday, McCarville’s remains traveled from Atlanta to Milwaukee and then to Beloit, where he will be buried next to his parents, Francis and Cecilia (Terhorst) McCarville.
Police officers, firefighters and a military honor guard helped escort the remains to Beloit late Thursday night.
Many family members said bringing their long-lost relative home helped give them closure.
McCarville's niece Marie McCarville and nephew Robert Ricksecker represented the family at Milwaukee's Mitchell International Airport. Ricksecker, who is named after his uncle, said Robert McCarville is remembered as “a hero in the family.”
“It gave me a real chill to know he was coming home,” Marie McCarville said. “We never thought this would happen.”
Nephew Richard Ricksecker said his mother, Jane Ricksecker—Robert McCarville’s sister who died in 2012—would be “beyond elated to have him home.”
“To have him coming home in this way is no less than unbelievable,” he said. “It wasn’t even on our minds as something that would be possible. It’s so emotional, but yet you can’t express enough gratitude to the Army and the Department of Military Affairs to make this happen.”
McCarville earned several honors for his service, including the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Good Conduct Medal, Presidential Unit Citation, American Defense Service Medal, Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal and the Combat Infantryman Badge.
His remains could not be recovered after his death, and records of his identity were lost until he was accounted for on July 10.
Scientists from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency used dental and anthropological analysis to identify the remains. Scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System also helped identify McCarville using mitochondrial DNA and Y-chromosome DNA analysis.
Beth Koos, another niece, said bringing McCarville home adds new significance to his place in the family.
“It was like he was a character in the family story, but now that he was identified and is being brought home, it’s like it’s come full circle and he is real to us,” Koos said.
Nephew Mark McCarville worked at Fairbanks Morse in Beloit for 12 years and met someone who knew his uncle.
“He was part of his platoon, and he told me that my uncle was a quiet guy, a nice guy, and someone who read a lot,” Mark McCarville said. “We all knew about our uncle growing up.”
Brigadier Gen. Joane Mathews is scheduled to present the family with a medal during a private ceremony Friday.
Another private ceremony with full military honors will be held for family and invited guests Saturday at Mount Thabor Cemetery.
Gov. Tony Evers has ordered that flags be flown at half-staff Saturday to honor McCarville.