COLONIE, N.Y. (NEWS10) – The remains of a World War II veteran arrived at Albany International Airport on Wednesday to be buried with full military honors.
A plane that arrived at Albany International on Wednesday was carrying precious cargo – a casket draped with an American flag.
Inside the casket were the remains of Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. Edward Barker. He was 21-years old when he went missing in 1944.
“Rather than a regular funeral where everyone is saying goodbye and sad, we’re saying hello, welcome home,” his nephew Mark Shoemaker said.
Shoemaker is also a Vietnam War veteran.
“I was 22 when I went to Vietnam as a pilot,” he said. “I know just what he was thinking.”
Barker was piloting a P-47D Thunderbolt during a training mission over Paupa New Guinea when he never returned. The military presumed he was dead, but they never found his body.
“I was never that confident,” Shoemaker said. “New Guinea is a big place; 7,800 ft. up on a mountain where he was in the jungle.”
Shoemaker thought the chances of finding his uncle were slim to none.
“But they just lucked on it,” he said.
It was Shoemaker’s DNA that helped identify his uncle 70 years later. Through all this time, he had only heard stories.
“All my life, from the time I was a baby, I know the story,” he said.
As the hearse slowly made its way out, Shoemaker wasn’t the only family there to welcome Barker back home.
“Once you’re in the military, once you’re a vet of foreign war, you’re part of the family,” Patriot Guard Ride Captain Ray Sestak said.
Along with active members of the military and the color guard, dozens of patriot guard riders saluted Barker. With American flags waving on the back of their bikes, they were ready to take him back to his hometown.
“I get to put him next to his mother,” Shoemaker said.
The patriot guard riders will escort Barker’s remains from Albany Airport to Herkimer – one hour west of Albany.