WESSON, MS (WLOX) - Seventy-five years after he was killed at Pearl Harbor, a Mississippi hero was finally laid to rest Wednesday in his hometown of Wesson.
Thanks to advances in DNA testing, the military recently identified the remains of Jim Hal Johnston.
Wesson displayed its pride and patriotism on the historic day. In small town, like in so many others across the state, military service is worthy of honor and respect.
"My husband was a veteran, Vietnam. My father-in-law was in the Navy, and my dad was in the Army. So, this just means a lot to me," said Wesson resident, Donnis Harrington.
Harrington is certainly not alone. Most everyone who signed the guest book wasn't even alive when Jim Hal Johnston grew up in the town.
"I'll soon be 100," said George Marcier, who is among the few who knew the Pearl Harbor
"We knew him as Jimmy, and I knew his brother and his sister," Marcier recalled.
Waving flags and hands over hearts greeted the procession as the Patriot Guard, along with local law enforcement, escorted the hometown son to his final resting spot.
"It sends a word out to all of Mississippi and all of America that we need heroes very much in this country, and somebody we can look up to and be proud of," said Marshal Robinson Jr., the fire chief of Byram, Miss.
Seventy-five years after his sacrifice, Jim Hal Johnston was accorded a full military farewell; a salute for a life taken too soon, like so many others on that fateful day.
"Jimmy Johnston and those who were lost on Dec. 7, 1941 shall never be forgotten. Generations hence will look back upon this date, realizing an American hero has come home," said Governor Phil Bryant.
Jim Johnston's oldest living relative, nephew Frank Springs of Lucedale, was overwhelmed by it all.
"This has been one of the most momentous occasions of my existence, and I thank you all for being here this morning. I thank you all for showing honor to my uncle. I just appreciate it," Springs told those gathered at the cemetery.
Jim Hal Johnston served aboard the USS Oklahoma at Pearl Harbor. More than 400 sailors lost their lives when the ship was sunk during the attack.