BYRON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A World War II fallen army soldier has finally been laid to rest decades after his death.

Family, friends, uniformed soldiers and veterans stood shoulder to shoulder Saturday afternoon at Winchester Cemetery in Byron Township to honor Private First Class Donald Hofman.

Private First Class Donald Hofman

Hofman was 19 when he went missing in action in January 1945 while fighting in France. Initially, American units weren’t able to recover his body or others as German forces controlled the area where the battle happened.

Nearly a year later, the American Graves Registration Command U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps began the task of recovering missing soldiers. The search and recovery efforts took years. Thousands of remains that were recovered couldn’t be identified.

For 77 years, PFC Hofman was an unknown soldier named “X-6376.” Thanks to advanced technology, he was recently identified and brought back to the Grand Rapids area, where he’s from.

His 94-year-old younger brother and retired minister, Revered Leonard Hofman, was among the crowd that attended the service.

“He never received much honor but today he does,” he said. “You sometimes wonder why the Lord has you live as long as you do. It’s a blessing. Maybe he kept me alive for this.”

Sgt. Tara Gamble, Michigan Army National Guard Casualty Operations added, “I’ve done quite a few repatriation cases and honestly this is the first time I’ve had a next of kin so close that actually knew the service member when he was alive.”