SANDY, Utah (News4Utah) — Nearly eight decades after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, a Sandy family finally learns that the remains of their beloved relative have been identified.
Bruce Holmes helped identify the remains of his uncle, Robert Holmes, through a DNA match. Holmes was a marine on the U.S.S. Oklahoma, a Nevada-class battleship that capsized on December 7, 1941.
Bruce Holmes says it is a bittersweet time for his family, but the experience has brought them closer together.
“I wish my gramps was still around,” said Holmes. “It was his son and my grandma. Think of how hard it was for them. They didn’t get him to come home from the war and now we are finally bringing him home.”
Holmes says a man on the U.S.S. Oklahoma battleship says Robert Holmes was a hero.
“He said, ‘I saw Bob standing there with his handgun, shooting at the planes coming over,'” said Holmes. “That gets me because of the utter futility of it. I’m proud of my Uncle Bob. I know he was a hero. I know he had guts. He stood there and shot at the planes with a pistol. That’s what I would have done, or what I would like to think I would have done.”
Holmes says Robert was engaged to be married when he died. He was just 19 years old.
“I can’t imagine all the time they spent cleaning those bones,” said Holmes.
Holmes remembers December 7th as a somber day for his father for many years.
“It hit him,” said Holmes. “It hit him hard. Every December he thought about his brother. (Robert) was the baby of the family and he was killed. Everyone felt terrible.”
Holmes says he is grateful his family finally has closure; he says he is also thankful for the lessons he’s learned during this experience.
“I’ve learned to be more patriotic even and have a much more profound respect for all service men and women,” said Holmes.
The Holmes family plans to honor Robert again at a funeral in August at the Salt Lake City Cemetery. Holmes says they are planning a graveside service with full military honors.