LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- It was a homecoming Thursday night, 76 years later, for a native son killed at the beginning of the attack that changed the world.
‘December 7, 1941, a date that will live in infamy’ were the words uttered by President Franklin D. Roosevelt after the attack on Pearl Harbor, when thousands of Americans were killed at the Naval base in Hawaii.
Petty Officer 1st Class Samuel Crowder of Louisville was on the USS Oklahoma when a Japanese torpedo struck and caused the ship to capsize. His family was given notice by telegram that Petty Officer Crowder was missing in action.
Crowder, like others who died that day, was buried as an 'unknown' in a mass grave. In 2015, they exhumed his body. When his family sent DNA samples, they found a match to his remains and informed them he would finally be returning home to Louisville.
“It's something we've looked forward to since I was seven years old,” said his nephew, Fred Crowder.
To Fred Crowder, he was Uncle Samuel. Although the two never met, they were connected. Fred followed in his uncle’s footsteps and joined the Navy in 1969. Years later, he was stationed in Pearl Harbor, like his uncle.
“I used to go and see his name at the cemetery, the punch bowl in Honolulu.”
Fellow veterans were anxious to be a part of this special moment.
“This is our brother and we're going to bring him home, we're going to bring him back,” said J.B. Reynolds.
Reynolds is one of several who escorted Crowder to the funeral home by motorcycle. He's part of Rolling Thunder as well as the Patriot Guard and both groups made up of veterans who do this to honor the fallen.
“It's very important, it's important for us to follow through on our mission for the families, as well as for the soliders, the airmen and sailors as well, just so they know they're not going to be forgotten and not going to be left behind,” said Todd Matonich with the Rolling Thunder.Petty Officer Crowder was taken to Resthaven Memorial Park where his casket was carried out by other sailors.
There was a final salute for Petty Officer Crowder. Fred told WHAS 11 News it brought some peace as he thought about his late father, Crowder's brother.
“He was never the same after Pearl Harbor, that he was just devastated throughout his life because of his brother's death,” said Crowder.On a day that was always dreaded, he explained that there's now a reason to smile.
“It's not a loss now, it's a celebration of his life, he's home in his hometown, he's going to be buried next to his mom and that's something we've looked forward to.”
Visitation is scheduled for Friday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. The funeral will be held on Saturday, as he’s buried with full military honors.