GRAND RAPIDS. Mich. (WOOD) — More than 80 years after his death, a soldier killed in World War II was laid to rest Friday morning in his hometown.

Pfc. Willard H. Brinks of Grand Rapids was killed in the South Pacific in present-day Papua New Guinea on Nov. 22, 1942.

His nephew, Dale Guikema, who was 2 years old when uncle was killed, attended the burial service at Garfield Park Cemetery.

Brinks’ three brothers survived the war.

“They had no family rules that you couldn’t send everybody. And my grandparents had the flag in the window with the stars: four blue stars and, of course, one turns to gold,” Guikema said.

The U.S. Army announced Brinks’ death in the Detroit Free Press just over three months after it happened. It was among 120 announced that day.

Willard’s great-niece Beth Rodenhouse, a chaplain, presided over Friday’s service.

“Hearing of all of the searching that the armed forces did and now to have the finality of him being at rest with his family, it does give us a sense of peace,” Rodenhouse said.

A file image of U.S. Army Pfc. Willard Brinks, as printed by the Detroit Free Press.
A file image of U.S. Army Pfc. Willard Brinks, as printed by the Detroit Free Press.

Willards remains were recently positively identified with the help of DNA.

“He was identified as X-70 and he had that identification until 2016. That’s when they interred a number of soldiers that had lost their lives there in New Guinea,” Rodenhouse said.

The Kent County Veterans Honor Guard was one of many groups involved to make sure Brinks received a proper burial.

“Closure is an important part of the grievance process and once they find out the remains have been identified through those means it’s science at work,” Dan Terrell, the firing squad sergeant, said.

After years of uncertainty, the family is grateful Brinks will finally be able to rest for eternity in the place he grew up.

“We’re really pleased that this … has happened and that we’ve been able to kind of put it to rest in our minds,” Guikema said.