UPDATE: After more than 70 years, a local Marine is now at his final resting place. Corporal Henry Andregg Jr. was buried Friday at the Chattanooga National Cemetery.
The Marion County man was killed in action in 1943 during the Battle of Tarawa. His body was buried on the pacific island, leaving his family searching for answers over the last 73 years.
Friday afternoon, Henry Andregg Jr. was buried with full military honors. Like most military funerals, there was the Honor Guard and other veteran's paying their respects. But they all agree, this was different.
One by one, members of the Sequatchie Honor Guard paid their final respects to a local war hero. “After 70 something years, finding the remains of someone who gave his life to the country it's an honor for us,” said Charlie Case with the honor guard.
Corporal Henry Andregg Jr.’s remains were finally returned home to Southeast Tennessee. First Sergeant Bill Conner escorted the Marine home from Hawaii. “Great to finally have him home. The Marines never leave anybody behind. We never leave a Marine behind. I am so proud to be serving in a military and a Marine Corps that searches for anyone who is not home yet.”
The sounds of Taps was another reminder of the Marine's sacrifice. A humbling experience for the man behind the music. “This one would have to be special. We welcome a brother home after so many years,” said Joe Pryor.
At the gates of the national cemetery, it was a hero's welcome home. Friends, family, and even strangers greeted the Andregg family. “It was a great honor. Indeed a great honor for us to welcome him home today. Indeed an honor.”
A Whitwell serviceman coming home after 73 years. A closed chapter for a family who never lost hope. “In order to bring somebody home, after so many years, it is a special feeling for all of us,” said Conner.
Gov. Bill Haslam declared Friday a day of mourning across the state for Andregg. The family was presented with a flag and other honors for their loved ones sacrifice.
PREVIOUS STORY: It was a long-awaited homecoming, for one Marion County family Thursday. Corporal Henry Andregg Jr.’s remains are now home in Whitwell 73 years after he was killed in World War II.
The Marine died in action during the Battle of Tarawa. For more than seven decades, the family mourned his death without a proper homecoming until now.
Andregg's remains were buried in a cemetery on the island and never identified. leaving his family with lots of questions. Thursday, his body was flown from Hawaii to Atlanta, and finally returned home to a community he left at just 23 years old.
The streets were lined with American flags, and people showing love and respect for a Marion County serviceman who is finally home. “This is just amazing. Everybody coming together and doing this,” said Julie Perkins, a niece of Andregg.
Friends, family members, veterans and even complete strangers gathered at Reed Funeral Home in honor of Corporal Henry Andregg Jr. who fought in WWII. “It is an honor to be here. To repay the debt he worked up,” said a Patriot Guard Rider, Mike Miller.
It was a chance to recognize the valor of this American hero and to remember the loss his family suffered when he died in combat. “It is unreal, it is absolutely unreal how humbling it can be. These people signed a blank check for up to their life for service,” said Sonny Mason, another Patriot Guard Rider.
Patriot Guard riders escorted the Marine from Atlanta to his hometown in Whitwell. “What he went through, what the family felt all these years. Almost 75 years that they don't have a clue where there brother, father, uncle, grandfather. Where he was or what happened to him.”
It was a bittersweet homecoming for an American hero. For family members who spent years looking for a man they never met, but never stopped searching for, this all means the world.
“Very, very blessed. Blessed. God has brought us together this way,” said Perkins.
“Very emotional, to be here and be a part of him coming home and having closure for this family,” said Jamie Webb.
Visitation for Henry Andregg is being held at Reed Funeral Home in Whitwell until 7pm Thursday evening.
A funeral with full military honors will take place Friday at the Chattanooga National Cemetery.
Stay with WRCBtv.com for updates to this story.
PREVIOUS STORY: The remains of Cpl. Henry Andregg Jr. are returning home this week.
Cpl. Henry Andregg Jr., of Whitwell, TN, was killed in action in World War II, during the Battle of Tarawa, on the island of Betio, Gilbert Islands, November 20, 1943.
Henry joined the Marine Corps on June 6, 1942, and was assigned to Company C, 2nd Amphibious Tractor Btn, 2nd Marine Division.
Corporal Andregg was among the first wave of heroic soldiers assaulting the Island. His remains were found and identified earlier this year. He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart, and was memorialized as one of the missing Marines from the Battle of Tarawa at The Honolulu Memorial National Cemetery of the Pacific.
Funeral services will be held in at The Reed Funeral Home on Friday, August 25, 2017 at 10:00 am CDT. Cpl. Andregg will be escorted by 1st Sergeant William Conner, of Battery M, 3rd Btn, 14th Marine Division Burial will follow at Chattanooga National Cemetery with full military honors provided.
The family will receive friends on Thursday, August 24, from 3:00 until 7:00 pm CDT. Online condolences can be made at www.reedfamilyfh.com
The family has asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Sequatchie Valley Honor Guard, P.O. Box 786, Jasper, TN, 37347
Services have been entrusted to Reed Funeral Home, 11675 Hwy 28, Whitwell, TN. (423) 658-5516
PREVIOUS STORY: A Marion County family is crediting an article in an Atlanta newspaper for reuniting their family. Corporal Henry Andregg Jr. died in November 1943 in World War II. For 74 years, he was considered missing in action, until Andregg's nephew read an article in the paper about matching the Corporal with his family.
Henry Andregg Jr. was killed when he was 23 years old, serving as a Marine in the Battle of Tarawa. For over seven decades, the family mourned his death without a proper homecoming until Thursday, when the United States military showed up at their door.
“It is bittersweet that we have closure,” said Andregg’s niece, Nancy Harris.
Corporal Henry Andregg Jr. was one of over 500 missing heroes from the Battle of Tarawa, until now. “We got a reunion, they are bringing his body back,” said another niece, Glenna Raulston.
The service members killed were buried in battlefield cemeteries on the island. Despite multiple grave recovery operations, Andregg's remains were never identified, leaving his family with a lot of questions.
“I was 10 when Henry got killed, but I remember 74 years ago,” said his nephew, George Wagner.
Recently, an organization discovered the island burial site and recovered the remains of what they believed were United States service members who fought in the 1943 battle.
“It is sad, but so happy because we never thought we would have this time again,” said Raulston.
Shortly after their find, scientists in Hawaii were able to identify Andregg's remains using DNA analysis. His remains are now being returned to his family for burial with full military honors.
“After 74 years, this man is finally going to the national cemetery where he deserves to be honored,” said Andregg’s great nephew, Skip Rodgers.
Members representing the United States Marine Corps traveled to Marion County to honor the family with Andregg's military decorations, including a Purple Heart to display proudly in their home.
“Makes me proud of him but sad on what he had to go through,” said a niece, Dot Rodgers.
It's a bittersweet moment for this family and a long deserved homecoming for their loved one. But, they realize other families are still waiting.
“Paid the price, he paid it with his life. So we are free. Thank God for veterans, thank God,” said Wagner.
The family is planning a funeral for Andregg at the national cemetery in Chattanooga, after his remains arrive in Tennessee.