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Welcome home WWII hero Thursday, memorial set for Sunday

Citizens are asked to line the roads of Pike County to honor a soldier who gave the ultimate sacrifice for his country during World War II. Lt. Robert Eugene Oxford of Concord will return to Pike County for burial in Magnolia Cemetery after his remains were recovered from the site of a B-24J Liberator aircraft crash site high in the Himalayan mountains. On Jan. 25, 1944, Oxford was a member of 425th Bomb Squadron, 308th Bomb Group, 14th Air Force, aboard the aircraft dubbed the ‘Hot as Hell’ departing Kunming, China on a supply mission to India. Despite initially favorable weather, conditions deteriorated rapidly and the aircraft failed to arrive at its destination. There were seven other men on the aircraft when it crashed. There are several ways for citizens to honor Lt. Oxford on his return and to show respect for the family. Those who live along the Highway 19 south of Moody-Daniel Funeral Home to the courthouse square and those who live along Highway 18 to Magnolia Cemetery can request yellow ribbons to display and hand-held American flags from Moody-Daniel Funeral Home by calling 770-567-8642. Lt. Oxford will arrive in Atlanta around 3:40 p.m. Thursday, June 8 and a special ceremony will be held on the tarmac with family members as his flag-draped casket is first to be removed from the aircraft. His hearse will be escorted by hundreds of motorcyclists in the Patriot Guard as he travels from the airport to Moody-Daniel Funeral Home on Highway 19 north in Zebulon. Citizens are asked to line the roads and welcome him home along the Highway 19 route from Tara Boulevard all the way to Zebulon. He should arrive between 5:15 and 5:45 p.m. in Zebulon. Visitation with family will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, June 9 at Moody Daniel Funeral Home. Although family will not be present, those who wish to pay their respects or sign the guestbook can visit the funeral home from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, June 10. A military presence will remain with Lt. Oxford at all times. A memorial service will be held at the Pike Auditorium at 2 p.m Sunday, June 11 and afterwards, Lt. Oxford will be taken to Magnolia Cemetery in Concord for burial. The family and community would like to have as many people as possible lining Highways 19 and 18 from the Memorial Service to Magnolia Cemetery in Concord starting around 2:30 p.m. Yellow ribbons will be tied at intervals around roadside objects including electric poles, light poles, fence posts and trees along both sides of the route. The crash site was originally found in 2006 by American Clayton Kuhles near Damro Village, Arunachal Pradesh Province. The government of India granted access to the location and a Joint Field Activity team conducted a survey of the site but due to adverse weather, work was suspended until November 2009. Due to access and security concerns, further recovery operations did not resume until late 2015. An October 2015 JFA mission recovered possible human remains and after review by the government of India, they were transported to a U.S. laboratory on April 14, 2016. Members of his family were in Hawaii as his remains arrived on U.S. soil for the first time in more than 70 years. ’To identify Oxford’s remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis, which matched a niece and a nephew, Y-chromosome DNA (Y-STR), which matched a nephew, laboratory analysis, including dental and anthropological analysis, which matched his records, as well as circumstantial evidence. Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000 died during the war. Currently, there are 73,057 service members still unaccounted for from World War II.

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