Nancy Lewis knew her uncle only through the stories she heard and always had hoped to bring him home for burial next to his parents. She took a DNA test, a match was found, and U.S. Marine Corps Pvt. Joseph Carbone is now buried next to his parents 74 years after his death in World War II.
“I feel my wish came true. I brought him home,” Ms. Lewis told CNY.
Ms. Lewis, 73, said about 150 people attended Carbone’s military funeral at the Basilica of Regina Pacis in Brooklyn, followed by burial at Calvary Cemetery in Queens Sept. 30.
Members of the U.S. Marine Corps served as pallbearers for the American flag-draped coffin with Carbone’s remains. Carbone received a rifle salute at Calvary Cemetery, one of four archdiocesan cemeteries operated by the Trustees of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. He was laid to rest next to his parents, Louie and Nancy Carbone.
“He’s with his mother and father. He’s home,” said Ms. Lewis of the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn. “The send-off was unbelievable. It was beautiful from the beginning to the end. It brought tears and joy to me.”
Carbone died in the Battle of Tarawa, a 76-hour battle on islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean in November 1943, won by the United States, with heavy casualties for both sides. The family later learned that Carbone was missing in action.
In 2015, Mark Noah, a pilot and founder of History Flight, and former Marine Ted Darcy uncovered a mass grave in Tarawa of U.S. fighters from World War II.
Ms. Lewis took a DNA test in 2015 with hopes of finding a match. A few months back, she received a phone call with the news.
“I was walking my dog, and I came in. The light was flashing on the machine. I listened to the message. They called me to tell me he was found, and he was a match,” she said.
“I just stood there like, ‘Oh, my God, I did it.’ Everybody in the family was ecstatic—who cried and who laughed. He was brought home through my DNA.”
Ms. Lewis was assisted in her mission by History Flight, a nonprofit organization dedicated to finding, recovering and repatriating America’s war dead of the 20th century to American soil. She is sharing her story to raise awareness, hoping other families will use a DNA test to find a match and bring their missing family members home.
“If they lost someone, a simple DNA test can get the person home to them and they’ll have closure,” she said.
Ms. Lewis never met her uncle, who was raised in Brooklyn Heights. She was born nine months after his death and heard stories only from her grandmother, Pvt. Carbone’s mother.
“She would talk to her grandchildren about him and it made him like this person who was there with us in spirit,” Ms. Lewis said. “We always felt we knew him.
“I remember as a child looking at my grandmother and saying I could bring him home to her, and I did. She was a loving, strong woman. My heart broke for her. She got strength having all the grandchildren with her and it kept her going. Every day of my life, I remember her talking about him.’’
Ms. Lewis’ love for her grandmother motivated her to find her uncle and bring his remains home for burial.
“I’m very proud of him. He respected our country and died for our country,” she said.