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A mother's prayer answered: A World War II soldier coming home for burial

After Leo Husak was killed during the U.S. Army's push into Germany in the final year of World War II, his mother's w...

Posted: Jun 18, 2018 6:48 PM
Updated: Jun 18, 2018 6:48 PM

After Leo Husak was killed during the U.S. Army's push into Germany in the final year of World War II, his mother's wish was that her son's body could be recovered so that he could be buried at home in Texas.

His mother, Julia Husak, died in 1976, but her wishes for her son will be fulfilled next Saturday in West, a small city north of Waco.

Leo Husak -- his remains having been identified through DNA testing -- will be buried in the family plot, near his parents. His four siblings, including a younger brother from Haughton in Bossier Parish, will be there.

"One of my mother's prayers from the beginning was that they could find his remains and bring him home," John Husak said. "If she were alive today, she would be absolutely elated and thankful."

Leo Husak was a 21-year-old Army staff sergeant when he was killed in 1945 during a battle in Germany. He was buried in an American military cemetery as an unknown soldier.

That changed with advances in DNA testing and continuing efforts to identify unknown remains of military personnel killed in action. His family got the word of positive identification in February.

Leo Husak will be buried with full military honors on June 23. The bronze marker in the family plot listing him as missing in action will be replaced by a white granite marker.

John Husak and two brothers had submitted DNA samples in 2000, but news his brother's remains had been identified was still a surprise. It will provide closure for his family, he said.

"For those who have missing relatives from the wars," Husak said, "don't give up hope yet."

John Husak said his brother played football for West High School, was an avid hunter and loved farming. His favorite subject in school was agriculture.

"I think, had he survived and come back, he would have been a farmer," John Husak said.

Leo Husak was killed on Jan. 30, 1945, as Allied forces moved through Germany. The battle in the Hürtgen Forest was one of the longest U.S. forces fought during World War II, lasting nearly five months.

"I remember distinctly when we got the first telegram Leo was missing in action," John said. "We came home from school; our mother had been crying and our father was very reserved. It really was a shock to us."

After the war ended, the remains of hundreds of soldiers killed in Germany were recovered. The remains of what would turn out to be Husak's could not be identified and were buried at Margraten in the Netherlands as an unknown soldier.

Last June, after researchers made an association between where a set of remains were found and where Husak was killed, a particular set of remains were disinterred and sent to a laboratory at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. DNA, anthropological analysis and dental records helped identify the remains in February and the family was notified, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency said.

More than 400,000 Americans died during World War II. There are 72,917 service members still unaccounted for.

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