Body of U.S. Army soldier returns home after 79 years

Body of U.S. Army soldier returns home after 79 years
Published: Nov. 18, 2023 at 10:25 PM EST
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - After 79 years, U.S. Army Private First Class Henry C. Wade is home.

He died in action at the age of 24 in Germany during World War II, but he was only accounted for on May 11, 2023.

“Henry’s picture was always on the wall at our house,” said Roger Wade, Henry’s nephew.

Determination is a gene passed down through multiple generations of Private First Class Wade’s family.

Granny, his mother lived with us, and I just always remember her being concerned about Henry,” said Wade. “Wondering what happened to Henry, and she wrote several letters and never [...] she got some sort of reply by no one ever knew. I’m just thinking of the closure it would give her today to see this happen.”

Wade Abbott, Henry’s nephew, helped to spearhead the mission to bring Private First Class Wade home at the direction of his late mother.

“My mother, Henry’s sister, asked me to see what I could find out, what the army knew about Henry, and I just started making inquiries and sort of feeding the fire,” said Abbott.

Dozens of family members spanning multiple generations made their way to Bluegrass Airport in Lexington to pay their respects, even some who never had the chance to meet Private First Class Wade.

“It’s a once in a lifetime experience, and you’ll probably never see it again,” said Henry Pettyjohn, the namesake of Private First Class Wade.

He will be buried in Russell Springs, but he did not make the journey alone. Rolling Thunder, a nonprofit who has accompanied more than two dozen military veterans on their path home, made their way to Russell Springs alongside the family.

“It’s a one-time deal for him to come home. It’s a one-time deal for the family to be represented properly. And for him to come home with as much peace and respect as possible,” said Todd Matonich, the president of Rolling Thunder KY 5.

The day served as a welcome home and a long-awaited mission accomplished.

“I just wish she was here to see the fruition,” said Abbott.

Private First Class Wade will be buried in Russell Springs on Nov. 29.