JOHNSON COUNTY, Tenn. - The remains of a World War II veteran who has been missing in action for 69 years will finally be making the journey back home, bringing closure to his only son.
For 69 years pictures and stories were all William Harris had to remember his father, a World War II Veteran, until now. "You're kind of relieved, kind of shocked, and really tickled that you're going to get to bring your dad home and bury him like he deserved," says William.
William's father, Army Private First Class Cecil Edwin Harris, was declared missing in action in January of 1945 after a mortar hit his platoon. "Everybody made it out but him," adds William.
Then in November of last year, William got the phone call he never expected: a call from the Army saying four hikers found his father's remains in Dambach, France. "I had to send a sample of my DNA, his sister had to send a sample of her DNA, and then that way they confirmed that it was my dad," he said.
We learned the hikers found Cecil's remains when they sat down to take a break. "There was a big old sandstone rock that kind of came over like a little cave back under there. So they were sitting down and one of them glanced over and thought he saw a skull," adds William.
The makeshift grave also had a cross with the initial 'H.' "The letter H would stand for Harris," says William.
William says he never actually knew his father; Cecil Harris was killed when William was just four months old. But he followed in his dad's footsteps and joined the Army, then later retired after years of service.
Based on stories William's heard, he's learning more and more that he and his father may be more alike than he thought. "He liked horses, he liked to hunt, and he liked to farm. That's something like the same thing I like to do, so I guess me and him were kind of alike in a sense," he said.
William and his family tell us they feel blessed by this experience and he has a special message for anyone going through a similar journey. "Never give up hope, because it happened to me. They found my dad and maybe they would find their loved ones that they have missing in war," he said.
William tells us his father will be buried in the Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C. on October 22. He says he chose there to make sure his dad is honored like a hero should be.