Pearl Harbor sailor laid to rest in Denver, 77 years after he died

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DENVER -- Exactly 27,955 days after his death, Wally Eakes is finally getting his funeral.  Sometimes, it takes an entire lifetime to honor a lifetime.

"I know that Pearl Harbor was hit, he was on the USS Oklahoma, and it tilted sideways.

And then grandma and grandpa got a telegram that tells that he was missing," said Janice Cope, Eakes' niece.

She was just a few days old when her uncle died in the attack on Hawaii that thrust the United States into World War II.

Eakes was one of 429 young men aboard the USS Oklahoma who died that day, and one of more than 2400 men killed in the Pearl Harbor attack.

It was DNA from a distant cousin that helped solve this family mystery.  Eakes' remains had been buried as "unknown" at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu.

But a few months ago, Eakes' nephew Gary got a call saying there had been a positive DNA identification.  He thought the call was a hoax, but it turns out, a 77 year old family mystery had finally been solved.

Survivors remember the heartbreak Uncle Wally's death caused the family.

"My father was pretty upset he was never going to see his brother again," Gary Eakes said.

"Grandma used to wake up during the night and go to the door because she thought he was one of the ones who was coming home.  That's kind of the heartbreak that anyone in wartime, even now, their families go through that," said Cope.

At the end of Thursday's funeral service at Fort Logan National Cemetery, Gary and Janice were handed the flag that draped their uncle's coffin.

"On behalf of the President of the United States, the United States Navy and a grateful nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of your loved one, Uncle Wally's faithful devoted service to this country," said that Navy officer who handed them the folded flag.

Waiting 27,955 days is a long time for a proper goodbye.  But for Gary and Janice, it was worth waiting a lifetime, to honor their uncle's lifetime.

"He's with his family now, since everybody else is buried here except for my dad," said Cope.

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