GREENEVILLE, TN (WJHL) – People in the Tri-Cities paid their respects to a fallen World War II hero Friday.
Army Private First Class Reece Gass is back home, more than 70 years after he died in action. The Greene County native’s remains arrived at Tri-Cities airport Thursday night.
Friday, family members said the experience is overwhelming and surreal, and they said they are honored Private Gass’ remains were found decades after his death while serving our country.
They said there is relief and closure that he can be buried in the place he called home.
“I have no words to express, it’s just overwhelming, to bring him home and to have the response that we’ve had,” said Gass’ great-niece Kerry Fuller.
Hundreds of people stopped by Doughty-Stevens Funeral Home Friday, to pay their respects to Gass. Some said they never even knew Gass or his family.
The State of Tennessee says Gass was likely killed back in January of 1945 after his tank was destroyed by enemy fire.
The 20-year-old’s remains weren’t identified until last year thanks to a DNA match from his niece.
“Another family of the soldier that was in the tank with Reece that had asked for a disinterment of their loved one, and come to find out it turned out to be Reece, so it truly is a miracle that he was identified,” Fuller said.
“We’re honored that his remains have been found and sent home and that he can be buried here with the family, but also sad that he didn’t get to have a life, a real life as an adult,” said Roberta Gass, his niece.
Gass’ family members are taking in that the Tri-Cities community didn’t waiver in their support of
a fallen solider, and what seemed like a long lost dream to bring PFC Gass home is now a reality.
“I know how my grandmother would feel, she would just be so glad to have him back in Greene County and back home where he belongs,” Fuller said.
Tennessee governor Bill Haslam declared Saturday a day of mourning.
A burial for Private First Class Reece Gass with full military honors will be held at Cross Anchor Cemetery Saturday afternoon.
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