Woman travels from Belgium to meet family of Harlan County veteran

By: Kendall Downing Email
By: Kendall Downing Email

Last year on Memorial Day we brought you the story of one Harlan County family whose World War II veteran, H.L. Burkhart, never came back home.

His brother Harvey died overseas in the war and was buried in Evarts.

But the family never knew what happened to H.L. - until a woman from Belgium found his grave and got in touch with them.

"Almost giving up on finding out where he was buried," said Daniel Blevins, great-nephew of Burkhart.

A Belgian woman Dominique Van de Straete adopted H.L.'s grave.
She's been taking care of it since December of 2008.

"We have been corresponding, and I told him I was coming to Kentucky," said Van de Straete.

Tuesday, that meeting took place. Dominique gave Daniel a book of handwritten notes and photos from the cemetary where Henry Lee Burkhart is buried.

"You only have a name, and you start wondering what's behind that name," said Van de Straete.

She and her family spent last Memorial Day at the grave. This year, they came to Kentucky.

And by the courthouse steps, Henry Lee was properly honored at the place he once called home.

"It's meant so much to me that somebody cares enough to take this time out of their life," said Blevins.

Sixty years of uncertainty are no more.

"It's quite emotional," said Van de Straete.

"This shows that people all over the world appreciate the American soldier," said Blevins.

But what was lost is now found, as two families are forever connected by the stripes of the red, white, and blue from half a world away.

Daniel Blevins said he hopes to make the trip to Belgium one day to visit his great uncle's grave.

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