Investigators: Fallen WWII service member finally laid to rest next to family

After years of dealing with government red tape, the family of a fallen service member from World War II finally saw him come home to be buried next to his parents.  The Fox 9 Investigators first told the story of the Kelder family in May.

STORY- Finding the fallen

When John Eakin was young he asked who the man was in the portrait that hung in the home of his great aunt.

"I could hear her kind of gasp or choke up, or tear up and she didn't say anything and my grandfather kind of choked up and he just said, that's Bud," Eakin recalled.

The raw emotion of that moment, some 50 years ago, drove Eakin to find the man in the picture who was his cousin, Army Private Bud Kelder.  The search would take five years. And along the way, he discovered relatives he'd never known, a cousin in Wisconsin and another in Illinois. They shared his passion to bring Kelder home.

Kelder died a horrible death in a Japanese prison camp during WWII. The family was told his remains could not be recovered. But, seven decades later Eakin proved otherwise. Old Army files hinted that Bud was buried in a tomb of unknowns in the Philippines. The Pentagon refused to open the grave and do DNA testing to identify the remains.

So, the family sued and after a long court battle a federal judge ordered the testing. Family members gave Bud a proper funeral in his hometown of Chicago on Saturday, July 18.

Doug Kelder is Bud's nephew and lives in western Wisconsin. 

"It has been a long, long ride, it's coming to a conclusion today. I feel like I'm having a 150 pound bag removed from my shoulders," Doug said. 

U.S. Senator Mark Kirk from Illinois was there to present them with a Purple Heart, and the Bronze Star for valor in a combat zone for Bud's sacrifice. He was laid to rest next to his mother and father in a Chicago area cemetery. 

The chapter is closed for the Kelder family but Eakin isn't done -- "All these guys deserve to have their name on their headstone," he said.

DNA testing now makes it possible to identify the thousands of American service members who are buried in tombs of unknowns across the world.  Eakin, himself a veteran of the Vietnam War, will continue to pressure the Pentagon to help families find the fallen and bring them home.

The Fox 9 Investigators are following two other Minnesota families who are facing a similar struggle to locate the remains of a fallen loved one. There could be some new developments in one of the cases next week. The Fox 9 Investigators will let viewers know what happens.

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