Ted Honors his Fallen Cousin in Tarawa, Kiribati

Ted, 72, is a generous and patriotic man who currently resides at Lake Port Square in Leesburg, Florida. It was his Wish of a Lifetime to travel to the small island of Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands to honor his cousin who was killed in battle during WWII. Ted was just a young boy when his 16 year old cousin, Arthur, lied about his age to enlist in the Marines. After training, his cousin was quickly deployed overseas and stationed on the island of Tarawa. He was killed shortly after arriving in the bloody massacre of the Battle of Tarawa that took place November 20 – 23, 1943 – he was just 18.

Everyone thought his remains had been shipped home, and they held a funeral in his hometown as well as a burial ceremony at Arlington Cemetery. However, Forty years later, three complete skeletons were found in a buried amphibian tractor on the island. Found with them were the boots, watch, helmet liner, and dog tags of one of the soldiers. The etching on the liner read, “Somes, Pfc”. Once the remains were discovered the Department of Defense was informed that Marines were still left on the battleground. They insisted that all American soldiers had been returned to the United States and a body had already come home with Somes’ name attached. Because no one claimed these remains, they were buried in an unmarked grave on the island close to the Coastwatchers Memorial.

Now, every year on ANZAC day (a holiday similar to Memorial day for Australian and New Zealand veterans), Private Somes’ name is mentioned in the prayer that is dedicated to the fallen soldiers. Since Ted has made this discovery about his cousin’s body, he has had the desire to give his cousin a proper burial by paying his respects and playing “Taps” at his grave on his cornet. He says it will be a “trip of heartfelt duty.”

Ted’s dedication to honoring his cousin is in part because he is a veteran himself, having served in the Coast Guard. Once he was out of the service, he worked building submarines and later went on to be an aircraft engineer. He primarily designed jet engines. He was actively involved with Habitat for Humanity and generously donated a house to the cause. He is still very involved with veteran’s groups and is a member of the Honor Guard where he plays “Taps” for memorial services.

Wish of a Lifetime and Brookdale Senior Living were happy to send Ted to Tarawa for ANZAC Day on April 25, 2013. Due to the intense travel and limited flights in and out of Tarawa, he was gone from April 18 – May 1. He attended the dawn services of ANZAC Day, visited the historical WWII sites, and, of course, spent time at the unmarked grave of his cousin. He was also able to do a few archaeological digs with History Flight, a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing home the remains of all our fallen soldiers. It truly was a trip he will never forget.

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April 25, 2013