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LAKE BENTON, Minn. – Glenn Cyriack, a 20-year-old native of Lake Benton, Minn., was below deck of the USS Oklahoma on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, when the first Japanese torpedoes struck.

In the ensuing chaos of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese dive-bombers, fighter-bombers and torpedo planes sunk nine U.S. ships and severely damaged 29. The USS Oklahoma capsized at 8:08 a.m., 12 minutes after the first torpedo. Hundreds of men were trapped below decks with compartments filling with water. Of the 2,403 U.S. deaths from the attack that catapulted America into World War II, 429 were from Cyriack's battleship.

Back home on the family farm just outside Lake Benton in the far southwest corner of Minnesota, Cyriack's family heard nothing about his fate. Three weeks after Pearl Harbor came a telegram telling the family he was missing. A few months later, the recent high school graduate, who had worked as a farmhand and at a hardware store before enlisting in the Navy in 1939, was officially declared dead. For decades, though, his body was never identified, his remains never returned home.

Until Friday morning.

Inside the hearse near St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church – the same church where Cyriack was baptized and confirmed – lay a casket with his remains. The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency told the family there was an indentation in his skull, indicating he might have been killed quickly when a torpedo hit his ship.

"He might have been the first American killed in World War II," Cyriack's nephew, 71-year-old Steve Krause, said Friday morning as the funeral procession readied to go to a country cemetery a few miles outside town.

It took 81 years, six months and three days for Cyriack, a storekeeper second class in the U.S. Navy, to make it from a destroyed battleship in the Pacific Ocean to a family burial plot near his childhood home.

For a few years after the attack, Navy personnel removed bodies from the destroyed ships, placed them in caskets and buried them in Hawaii. A few years after that came an effort to identify the bodies – but with so much commingling of the remains, that effort was nearly impossible. When Cyriack's extended family visited Hawaii, they saw his name on the memorial, but it wasn't until the past couple decades that DNA analysis made identifying remains possible.

Cyriack's family got a phone call from a Defense Department genealogist in 2011, asking for DNA swabs for a database. In 2015, the Defense Department announced it would exhume unidentified remains of USS Oklahoma crew members for DNA analysis. In the ensuing years, hundreds of crew members were identified, but not Cyriack. His family kind of forgot about it.

This winter, the family got a phone call. His remains had been identified.

"Then the emotions really set in: amazement, shock," said another of Cyriack's nephews, David G. Smith — the "G" stands for Glenn, who was Smith's mother's older brother. "I get choked up every once in a while. This is somebody I don't know from Adam, but he's a blood relative. He's my uncle."

The funeral procession headed west out of town for four miles, down a gravel road and into St. John's Immanuel Lutheran Cemetery, tucked between trees and cornfields. Honor guards gathered from the Navy, the Marines, and a couple American Legion posts. About 200 people — some Cyriack's extended family from all over the country, some locals who wanted to show support in this patriotic moment — surrounded a tent over a freshly dug grave.

The Navy honor guard lifted Cyriack's casket from the hearse to a platform under the tent. His remains would lie between gravestones for his older sister, Cora, and his fiancée, Ines.

"It just gives you the shivers just thinking about it, that the military didn't let it go," said Sheri Iversen of Minnetrista, whose husband is a distant cousin of Cyriack's. "This is a gift. Everyone wants to put their mark on the world, and these people aren't forgotten 81 years later."

Graveside, family greeted family they hadn't seen in years. A mother told her son to put his hand over his heart. The pastor began by saying this was a different type of service, then led the crowd in singing "Eternal Father, Strong to Save," the Navy hymn. Windmills spun in the distance. The Marine honor guard fired a 21-gun salute. A Navy trumpeter played "Taps." The Navy honor guard carefully folded the American flag that had been draped over the coffin.

Only one person at the service, a nearly 100-year-old Lake Benton woman, knew Cyriack. She'd played with him when they were kids.

For the rest of the people there, "we know all we need to know," Navy Capt. Peter Muschinske said: that Cyriack had sacrificed his life for his country. He presented the family with the flag: "On behalf of the president of the United States the United States Navy and a grateful nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation."

Smith, who served 26 years in the military, wiped away tears. "Eighty-one years later, bringing it to a conclusion, identifying my uncle and having a formal burial, it's all pretty remarkable," he said.

"We haven't been so proud of our country the past few years," said Krause, Cyriack's nephew. "Everybody that's been around this, this makes us feel good again. I'm just so proud of our military. We don't leave anybody behind."