Alliance aims to identify heroes buried at Punchbowl Cemetery

By Ann Sterling
Published On: Mar 25 2014 07:41:56 PM HST
Updated On: Mar 25 2014 08:05:18 PM HST
Punchbowl cemetery
HONOLULU -

A survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor and a relative of a man who died the day the Japanese attacked are joining together to name the fallen American heroes, identify their remains and -- in some cases -- send them home.

Many of those buried at the National Memorial Cemetery are unidentified.

"When a man gives his life for his country it's no small thing. Each one is so important," said Peggy Germain.

Germain's uncle, Gerald Lehman, was once one of Punchbowl's unknowns.

He died on the USS Oklahoma the day Pear Harbor was attacked, before Germain was born.

She promised her mother that she would bring him home.

Her biggest ally in that mission has been Ray Emory. "He realized that there were unknowns that are known," she said.

Emory survived the Pearl Harbor attack and then painstakingly set out to identify those who were killed.

Among the three people he helped identify was Germain's uncle.

Germain remembers when she got Emory's call. "I remember I dropped the phone and ran upstairs to tell my husband. It was unbelievable. It was a moment I hoped for dreamed for and wanted to honor my mother."

In February, 15 U.S. Senators sent a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel urging him to order the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command to exhume the caskets of as many as 22 of those lost in the attack.

"The families will never give up. They need to get their loved ones back. They should not be able to start a new war until they bury all the dead from the old war," Germain said.

Her uncle is now buried in Michigan next to his mother and sister.

Hagel visits Hawaii next week. KITV4 has requested to talk to him about the process of identifying Punchbowl's unknowns.

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