Marine Sergeant Richard Murphy was missing in action for more than seven decades in a World War II battle on the Pacific front.
Murphy’s amphibious landing craft got stuck on a reef and everyone had to abandon ship to get to shore. He stayed behind to help another wounded Marine.
"That’s when shell fire came in and blew up the craft and Uncle Richard and his fellow marine were never seen again alive," said Jerry Murphy, Richard’s nephew.
Jerry and his cousin Jeanne Robinson’s DNA were used to identify Richard’s remains that washed up on the beach in Sia Pan in 1944. Jerry, along with his cousins, had never met Sergeant Murphy, yet the family bond is strong.
"It’s an amazing family experience it’s got us all here together," said Jerry.
Sgt. Murphy had more than just his duties as a fighting Marine.
"Uncle Richard, in addition to carrying his pack as a marine and his M-1 rifle, had a typewriter with him because he was a war correspondent," said Jerry.
Funerals are usually a solemn occasion.
"But this is a celebratory time,"Jerry said. "It’s a happy and upbeat type of event and so extraordinary."
Robinson is Sgt. Murphy’s niece and never met her uncle but was well aware of his military achievements.
"He was always with us. He was that handsome Marine looking out of the picture frame, he was that empty chair at Thanksgiving, he was always the person we heard stories about," said Robinson.
And the man of those stories is home where the family finally could reach out and touch their uncle — a Marine, an American, a hero.
One of Sgt. Murphy’s last correspondents home was to his mother.
"He said, 'you know, I don’t want to die but I’m not afraid to die for my county' and that just makes us oh so proud of Uncle Richard," said Jerry.
Sgt. Murphy will now spend eternity on American soil, right next to his mother.