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Met at the airport by Marines & the Patriot Guard, fallen local Marine finally receives homecoming fit for hero

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Patriot Guard joined a police escort Friday afternoon for the return of the remains of a Marine killed during World War II.

Private Donald Tolson was killed in action during the Battle of Tarawa in November 1943. But his remains were missing until about two years ago.

That's when Connie Cross got a phone call from the Defense Department seeking a DNA sample. Cross is Tolson's second cousin. She had heard the stories about the Marine from her mom and aunts.

And as Private Tolson is returned to the family's home state of Missouri Friday, she says she's moved with pride by the sacrifices so many made during World War II and the fact that countless others who didn't know Tolson would not forget the troops left behind on some remote Pacific island

"It means everything," Cross said. "I guess it has made us aware of our patriotism and the sacrifice he made, and all the soldiers made during that time."

There is a memorial at Pearl Harbor with Tolson's name on it. But his family in Missouri says his mother always held out hope that Tolson would be found, because there's been a gravesite and headstone waiting for him here.

"Not knowing where he was or anything, our mothers had talked about it so much that we were concerned," said Zella Whitney, Tolson's cousin. "But I feel proud and honored today that they have found his remains, and it will bring him back home."

You can watch the touching moment fellow Marines gathered to escort Tolson's body from the plane below. 

About 1,000 Marines and sailors were killed in the Battle of Tarawa, and Tolson died on the first day, while hitting the beaches. A funeral is scheduled Saturday.