GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. - Albert Rybarczyk, went by Bud, and at 22 years old he was an Aviation Radioman for the U.S. Navy. He died on Sept. 8, 1944 and was one of more than 75,000 veterans of World War II listed as missing in action. That is, until this year.
"We never expected. We were talking yesterday, it's really truly a miracle," Bud's niece Cindy Gray said.
Bud's family never thought they'd see the day.
"I've seen things like this on TV, and now it's happening to us so it's just a bit overwhelming but it's finally here," Gray said.
Bud's sister Mary, is his only surviving immediate family member.
"The MIA POW Navy division in Millington, Tennessee contacted us, it's called DPAA. They said they would like to have DNA samples from my aunt," Gray said.
The DNA turned out to be a match for Albert Rybarczyk.
"She's glad that he's finally home, and it's something that she never dreamed would happen," Gray said.
Project Recover which helps find and identify Americans missing in action from WWII, located the TBM Avenger 100 feet below the water in the pacific. A dive team confirmed the aircraft and started identifying the three airmen associated with it.
"If it wasn't for them, we wouldn't be here today," Gray said.
Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017, Bud is finally home.
"We found out that he was coming in on Pearl Harbor, and coming from Pearl Harbor, what more of a perfect day for him to come home," Gray said. "The emotions are there, and it's like I couldn't cry because we've cried so much that it was like, oh he's finally here, he's finally home."
For Bud's 87-year-old sister, Mary, she finally has the closure she needed.
"One of their favorite songs was 'I'll be home for Christmas,' and he's home," Gray said.
Bud's family have planned a funeral ceremony for him on Monday at St. Joseph Catholic Church, in St. Joseph Michigan. Members of Project Recover including one of the investigators who found the TBM Avenger will be at the funeral.
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