(FOX 9) - On the tarmac at Twin Cities International Airport Thursday, an emotional homecoming nearly 80 years in the making was underway.
“We've waited for so long for this to happen and really didn't think it ever, ever would," said Joan Fritz
Joan Fritz's uncle Edward Shelden was just 17 and only finished a year of high school when he enlisted in the Navy where he eventually became a fire controlman, responsible for the mathematical calculations to fire guns on his battleship.
He was one of 429 sailors who were killed on the USS Oklahoma during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, but his remains weren't identified until last year.
"I was too little to understand what was going on, but it was really devastating for my mother,” Joan said. “That was all she had. It was very devastating."
Now, 78 years after he died, Joan's uncle got full military honors as a plane carrying his flag-draped coffin landed Thursday in Minnesota, the state where his closest remaining family members now live and where he will finally be laid to rest.
"I just said, 'this is all for you, mother,'” Joan said. “She's so happy that you are back home and you are with family now and it’s very important. She'd be thrilled. She would be thrilled."
A fitting tribute to a man they never knew but who will be in their hearts forever. "He's finally home. This is where his family is now. It is very important."