Soldier Laid To Rest 61 Years After His Death - KTUL.com - Tulsa, Oklahoma - News, Weather & Sports

Soldier Laid To Rest 61 Years After His Death

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A soldier killed in a plane crash more than 60 years ago was laid to rest on Saturday. The full military funeral took place in the soldier's hometown of Caney,Kansas.

Army Private Leonard Kittle is one of 52 military personnel who died when a plane crashed in the Alaskan wilderness in 1952.

"There was never any closure for the family. My grandma didn't have Christmas for three years. It was always so hard for them to move on and she always thought she could find him if she went to Alaska," said Kathleen Kittle Brune, Kittle's niece.

After the wreckage, the Kittle family placed a headstone in the Sunnyside Cemetery in Caney, Kansas, waiting for their hero to return. Kittle's daughter Linda Erickson has no memory of her father since she was one month old when he disappeared, but she will never forget the day officials identified her fathers remains.

"I never got my hopes up because 17 out of 52 isn't good enough odds for me to get to. Then when they called and said my dad was on of them I think my words were oh my god. I just couldn't believe it. Of course I started crying," Erickson said.

After waiting more than six decades, Kittle and his family are now at peace.

"It's good to have him home finally because my grandmother and grandfather they died never giving up hope that someday he would come home. He's home now . Not the way we wanted but he's home," said Leon Erne, Kittle's Nephew.

On Saturday relatives and citizens gathered at the cemetery to lay Kittle to rest alongside his parents, who believed this day would come.

"Just never give up. Always feel positive that you will be able to bring him home and put him to peace," said Beatrice Crawford, Kittle's sister.

Kittle's wife Sandra Kozak also attended the funeral along with several other family members. Sixteen other service members were identified, but kittle is the first one to be laid to rest.

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