Casper- (KCWY) The remains of a World War Two soldier killed in combat in Europe and whose identification was unknown until recently is on his way home to Canada making a stop first in Casper Sunday.
His remains discovered in a German cemetery in France...missing from his family for almost 70 years ....people lined the streets in Casper to pay tribute along with others across five states who are stepping up to honor him ....after the US army denied a military escort.
"My uncle would be thrilled to know that he is back where he started even if it is on his way to his final resting place,” said the soldier’s nephew Lawrence R. Gordon.
Police officers and sheriff’s deputies escorted the body of US Army Private first class Lawrence Samuel Gordon and the patriot guard riders of Wyoming from Hat Six road through downtown Casper to a ranch just west of town on its way to Canada, all because the military denied a military escort for the soldier saying in an email the route planned was indirect.
"It's a bureaucracy and that should not be a reflection on the American people and it isn't if there is anything I’ve taken away from this it's that as individuals Americans have been incredibly kind, generous, respectful, they know what the right thing is,” said Gordon.
"What took us so long to find him? What took the American government so long to say hey we are missing a man there was 44 killed and 43 were identified and buried in France after the War and this one man was never identified,” said Rick Parks Sr. the Wyoming Patriot Guards Ride Captain.
A Canadian with dual citizenship in Canada and the United States Private First Class Gordon spent time in mills working as a ranch hand in the 1940's....right before enlisting in the US Army...his nephew who is driving him cross-country is named after his uncle solely to keep his memory alive.
"Our purpose for coming back here is to basically bring him back to where he was the last day he was a civilian,” said Gordon.
Gordon's remains now in an American flag draped casket...still have a long way to go before reaching home in medicine hat Alberta...the 1600 mile journey by SUV from Wisconsin through five states has not only veterans lining the streets paying tribute, but is bringing those out who have been moved by the soldier’s story.
"I was so touched I just cried because my father is about this gentleman's age and you know it could have been my father,” said Edith Selby a Casper resident.
"Just from what I’ve seen with the amount of residents of Casper and Natrona County who have lined the roads taking their hats off and paying respects this community does more than any I’ve seen,” said Sgt. Scott with the Casper Police Department.
Olive garden in Casper donated lunch for the whole brigade before they headed to Billings Montana Sunday, just a small thing they could do for the group.
"It's a humbling experience to really realize and see firsthand,” said Jacqui Muir a manager at the Casper Olive Garden.
Gordon points out despite little assistance obtained by the US government with locating his uncle he saw unwavering support from four volunteer researchers and the French and German governments. Three independent laboratories outside of the US government were able to positively identify DNA results from bone and tooth samples.
"69 years he was an unknown soldier today he gets his name back he is now Lawrence S. Gordon,” said Gordon.
Gordon promised his father he would find his dad when he passed away in 1989. Private first class Gordon’s funeral will be held in Canada on August 13th the 70th anniversary of his death. All identification expenses were paid for exclusively by the Gordon family and a volunteer research team, estimated at a cost of 25,000 dollars, which they say would have been significantly cheaper if the US government assisted.