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WWII hero to return home

First Lieutenant Robert Eugene Oxford of Concord became Missing In Action during World War II on Jan. 25, 1944 during a flight over the Himalayan Mountains. For more than 73 years, his family has been waiting for his return. Remains were discovered and recently identified as those of Lt. Oxford. Members of American Legion Post 197 and other veteran organizations are making sure he receives the homecoming reception he deserves after giving his life fighting for his country. ’There are several ways the community can take part in the activities of Lt. Oxford’s Homecoming,’ said American Legion Post 197 Commander Bryan Richardson. ‘There will be family visitation at Moody-Daniel Funeral Home from Friday, June 9 from 5 to 8 p.m. and all day Saturday, June 10. Members of the community can attend the Memorial Service at 2 p.m. Sunday, June 11 at a location to be determined. More importantly, the community can pay its final respects and honor as the U.S. flag-draped coffin is escorted to Magnolia Cemetery in Concord by lining U.S. Highway 19 from Moody-Daniel Funeral Home to Zebulon and lining Highway 18 to Concord.’ Lt. Oxford’s casket will depart from Hawaii and arrive at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on Thursday, June 8. There will be a short private ceremony with family and an escort detail on the tarmac. The casket will loaded into a Moody-Daniel Funeral Home hearse and escorted by Patriot Guard Riders to the funeral home on Highway 19 north in Zebulon. A Memorial Service is set for 2 p.m. Sunday, June 11 and following the service, the flag-draped casket will be escorted to Magnolia Cemetery in Concord. The family and community would like to have as many people as possible lining Highway 19 from the Memorial Service to the courthouse square and on Highway 18 from the courthouse square to Concord and Magnolia Cemetery. Yellow ribbons will be tied at intervals around roadside objects (i.e. electric poles, light poles, fence posts, trees) along both sides of the route. Lt. Oxford’s nephew Bill Roan and his wife Merrill Roan have campaigned for missions to find whether the remains of their loved one and the other seven crew members aboard the B-24 bomber since the crash site of the plane was located in 2006 by Clayton Kuhles of Prescott, Arizona. Due to the high elevation and unstable ground on the mountain top, it ook several searches to locate remains. An excavation by recovery team revealed the remains of Lt. Oxford in October, 2015. DNA evidence was used to identify the remains as both his nephew and children of his sister submitted DNA for comparison. Other surviving family members include nephew Danny and Loraine Oxford of Concord, Walter and niece Susan Smith of Hickory, N.C., nephew Tommy and Carolyn Oxford of Concord, nephew Gene Oxford of Orlando, Fl., nephew Bill and Merrill Roan of Thomaston, Perry and great niece Terri Conner of Glenwood, great nephew Charley and Candice Roan of Thomaston, great niece Mary-Kate and John Ellen of Savannah, great nephew Bryan and Brandy Smith of Hickory, N.C., great nephew Brad and Jen Smith of Raleigh, N.C., great nephew Charlie and Cory Oxford of Griffin and great niece Laura and Brandon Rogers of Concord. One of six children born to Charles and Annie Oxford of Concord, Robert Eugene Oxford was the youngest child, born in 1919. Four of the Oxford boys served during World War II. Before volunteering and leaving for service, Lt. Oxford worked at the Concord Post Office and on his family’s farm. He was engaged to be married and in a letter dated Jan. 21, 1944 to his mother, he asked about his family, fiancee and the farm, noting that he expected to get to come home within three months. Instead, he became one of the more than one million Americans who lost their lives serving during WWII. ’In most cases, when a family first receives word that their loved one is missing in action, the immediate response is that there is hope that he or she is still alive and will come home. As time progresses and there remains little evidence to support their loved one’s death, the family morally struggles in that they cannot give up hope. The guilt of abandoning hope and betraying their loved one would be to declare their loved dead. Hence, the family never gets a chance to properly grieve and bury their loved one,’ said Richardson. ‘Obtaining credible evidence and the return of their family member’s remains finally brings closure. Lt. Oxford gave the ultimate sacrifice while serving our country. As Americans, we should support this momentous occasion as the family experience final closure for Lt. Robert Oxford after being missing in action for the last 74 years. Not only can Lt. Oxford finally rest in peace, but also, his family can finally have peace of mind.’ Lt. Oxford is memorialized at the Manila American Cemetery at Fort Bonifacio in the Philippines. There is already a memorial marker in his honor in the family plot of Magnolia Cemetery in Concord. Post 197 Commander Richardson said his research has led him to believe that this is the first homecoming for a Missing In Action service member since WWI. He said there have been several service members who have been declared Missing In Action for a few hours or even days, but their status was quickly changed to Killed In Action.

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