Remains of WWII soldier who died in Pearl Harbor finally return home

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He left Minnesota to join the Navy in the late 30s, only to lose his life in WWII.

Now this sailor from Holdingford, Minn., who died at Pearl Harbor is returning to his home state.

Elmer Kerestes was just 22 when the USS Oklahoma sank on Dec. 7, 1941.

But his family, fellow sailors and the Minnesota Patriot Guard were at Twin Cities International Airport to welcome him home.

Every homecoming has the potential to be special, but few are as memorable as a family reunion with a relative you've never met.

"My brother is here and my cousins are here and my daughters and granddaughters and friends so its really cool," Kerestes' niece, Janet Klug, said. "There's going to be someone crying here that's for sure."

Klug's uncle died three years before she was born.

"I think it was really hard for the family because my uncles and Dad never said much about it," Klug said.

Now thanks to advances in DNA testing, uncle Elmer--whose remains had gone unidentified for three quarters of a century and were buried in a mass grave in Hawaii--is finally coming home.

After the plane carrying his remains landed on the tarmac, a water cannon salute leads to a different kind of waterworks.

"At least he's home now," Klug said, tears in her eyes. "What was it like? Oh my goodness! He's smiling in heaven. It's wonderful. I can't say any more. It's wonderful. I'm so glad he's home. It's just like finally."

Now, a painful chapter in his family's history can finally be closed for good.

"We are blessed as a family to have Elmer come home," Klug said. "There are many families out there who won't feel this happiness, but we are blessed to have that and I'm thankful to everybody." 

Kerestes will be buried with military honors at Highland Cemetery in Holdingford Saturday.

Klug says he'll be buried next to his parents on a plot of land that used to be his family's farm.