For almost seventy years, the family of U.S. Marine Emil Ragucci thought that his body had been lost at sea during a battle at a Pacific atoll during World War II. This week, however, Emil’s brothers Dominic, 86, and Victor, 91, were finally able to bring him home.

Western Journal reported that Dominic and Victor stood on a tarmac in Philadelphia on Monday to greet the remains of their brother, which were accompanied from Atlanta by a Marine honor guard before being escorted to a funeral home by state police. Dominic was saddened that his mother did not live to see this day as she had buried another son during the war as well and yearned to have the chance to bring Emil home.

“My mother always had that on her mind. ‘I want my boy back. I want my boy back,’” Dominic said. “To me, it seemed like a hopeless task.”

The Raguccis’ brother Nicholas was killed in Italy in 1944 and was brought home after the war, but the family was told that Emil’s body was unrecoverable. Emil was one of over 1,000 Marines who were killed during a three day battle at Central Pacific atoll of Tarawa.

The Ragucci family lost hope for decades that they would ever recover the body of their loved one. It wasn’t until just over ten years ago that Dominic, who served in World War II himself, met another veteran who fought in the battle that Emil was killed in. The veteran gave him some contact information and Dominic was able to find additional help from a support group for descendants of Tarawa veterans.

It was this group that told the Raguccis that many of the men killed in Tarawa were buried in makeshift graveyards and were later moved without diligent record-keeping to make room for the construction of an airstrip. It wasn’t until 2013 that History Flight Inc., a nonprofit group of forensic anthropologists, came upon a plot labeled Cemetery 33, which was full of remains of U.S. soldiers.

Six years ago, Dominic submitted his DNA to see if the anthropologists could find Emil. Sure enough, the Marines called the Raguccis last November to say that the remains had been found!

“I feel very bad that those boys were out there all that time unaccounted for and not appropriately attended to,” Dominic said.

Emil is being laid to rest today next to his brother Nicholas and his parents. Dominic is just happy that his family members are together again.

“My father was bitter from a political perspective. My mother was just sad because her heart was damaged. That’s always going to be the case. … Mothers get it here, they hurt here,” Dominic said as he pointed to his heart. “We were blessed in a sense. We had good parents, family that stuck together. It’s hard to articulate how they would feel, but I think they’d be happy.”

We’re so glad to see that this story had a happy ending. Please keep all other military family’s who are still trying to find their missing loved ones in your thoughts and prayers!

Mentioned in this article:

More About: