MCKEE, Ky. — Genevieve Palm never met her uncle, but she’s long known about Army Pfc. Berton McQueen’s life, which was cut short during World War II.
“There were things he wanted known,” Palm said. “Where he’d been, what he’d done. And now, everybody knows.”
The 20-year-old soldier from McKee, Kentucky, was killed in November of 1944 during combat in France. His body went unidentified until this past summer when DNA and dental records finally gave his family the answers they’ve hoped for.
According to Palm, McQueen’s mother and sister both died without knowing what happened to him.
“It was 77 years before they were able to identify him, and thank God they did, this July,” Palm told WLEX on Saturday morning when the two-time Purple Heart recipient was finally laid to rest in his Jackson County hometown.
Veterans and community members gathered to remember the young man they’ve never forgotten.
“Even now as you walk through and you view the casket and his awards and medals, you think, ‘Is it real? Is it really real? Is it really a dream?’” said Palm.
But the long-anticipated moment was real and a solemn reminder of the Kentucky soldier’s sacrifice.
“Everything he deserved,” Palm said of the ceremony honoring her uncle. “But we couldn't do enough for him, for what he did for us.”
According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, there are 1,101 Kentucky veterans who remain unaccounted for after World War II. A total of 14 Kentuckians from the Vietnam War and 185 from the Korean War are also unaccounted for.
This story was originally published by Evelyn Schultz at WLEX.