MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Seventy-five years after he lost his life at Pearl Harbor, a Minnesota sailor finally returned home.
Navy fireman first class Elmer Kerestes was 22 when he was killed in action while aboard the USS Oklahoma. Earlier this year, DNA testing identified his remains.
“He was just six days into his 22nd year. He was just a kid,” his niece, Janet Klug said.
Klug never knew her Uncle Elmer, but when she got the call earlier this year that his remains had been identified, she couldn’t hide her emotions.
“I really cried. I was just so happy. I was just thrilled. I’ve been waiting so long. I said this was the impossible becoming possible,” said Klug.
Elmer Kerestes would be 99-years-old today. But had just turned 22 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor- sinking the USS Oklahoma.
“He was fireman first class, so he was in the bottom of the ship,” said Klug.
On Thursday, 75 years after his death, Kerestes finally received a hero’s homecoming. A water cannon salute greeted the plane that carried his remains to MSP as sailors and family he never knew, welcomed him back. An American flag draped over his casket and a sense of pride clearly in the hearts of those waiting for him.
“To see the nation come together and to recognize our fallen dead, even from so long ago, it helps to validate our service today. We take it as a sacred honor,” Captain Nathan Strandquist said.
“I just think it’s awesome that they are doing this, identifying remain of anyone. Any branch of service. So these families can have closure on that. I think that is admirable,” Klug said.
Kerestes will receive a full-honors military funeral at Highland Cemetery in Holdingford Saturday.