(WKRG) — The remains of an Alabama sailor were returned to the Gulf Coast Thursday, 75 years after he was killed on duty.
A team of sailors from NAS Pensacola received the remains of Henry Sollie at the Pensacola International Airport. Sollie was killed aboard the USS Oklahoma at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
Members of Sollie’s family, none of whom was born at the time Sollie was killed, came from as far away as Indiana to welcome the sailor’s remains.
“We are here to welcome home my Uncle Henry,” said Iris Plowman, Sollie’s niece.
Sollie was one of the 429 killed aboard the USS Oklahoma. Only 35 bodies could be identified. The rest of the remains were buried at two Hawaiian cemeteries in 1944, where they remained until 2015 when the process of DNA matching began.
“As technology has improved we are now able to identify the remains of those sailors,” said Rear Admiral Carol Lynch. “We’re now giving families opportunity to bring their loved one home.”
Sollie’s niece said it’s not a time to mourn, but to celebrate.
“We’re not in a grief mode,” Plowman said. “This is a celebration — after all these years — to bring him back home.”
Plowman says stories of her uncle were kept alive in the family by her father, who had witnessed his brother’s death.
“My dad was also in the Navy and he was a Pearl Harbor survivor,” Plowman said. “He was there that day — an eyewitness. He did see his brothers ship sunk, so we always had the knowledge.”
It didn’t matter to the sailors receiving Sollie’s remains that he was born 112 years ago or that he died 75 years ago. He’s a war hero, a military casualty and a member of their Navy family.
“To see the outpouring from the community and the family members — it’s wonderful,” said Lynch.
Sollie was from Marengo County, Alabama. He’ll be buried with full military honors Friday at Barrancas National Cemetery.