KINGSTON, Tenn. — Nearly 75 years after he was killed in WWII, a Roane County veteran is now home.
The family of U.S. Army Private First Class William Delaney was finally able to accept his remains in a coffin covered with an American flag.
Delaney was killed in Germany in November of 1944.
Years ago his family was told he stepped on a landmine and no remains were found. Now, a lifetime later, his remaining nieces and nephews have the truth and the closure their family always hoped for.
That includes his niece Frankie Copeland, who never met her uncle.
"My parents and my grandmother didn't talk a lot about what had happened to him," said Copeland.
Delaney, who they called Frank, was killed in in WWII nine years before Copeland was born.
"I always kept his picture up because it meant a lot to me because I was named after him," she said.
She always felt close to her uncle.
"Even though I haven't met him, he showed me courage -- and so I think I need to step up to the plate and tell his story," she said.
Copeland's family was told her uncle's remains were never found. But a few months ago, that changed with a call from the military.
"They asked me would I be willing to do a DNA [test] and I told them 'of course,'" she said.
All it took for Copeland's namesake to come back home to Kingston was a sample of her DNA.
"When the military called me and told me that my DNA were the dots that connected him back to my uncle, it was just amazing," she said.
Copeland finally found out how her uncle really died.
The official record said an artillery shell hit his foxhole during a strike against German soldiers near Grosshau in 1944, killing him.
He was 24 when he died. In 2017, his remains were disinterred from an unmarked tomb with others who died in that battle -- and in December 2018 he was identified thanks to his family.
"Away from home and in active battle. How scared he must have been and the challenges he had to face," said Copeland.
On Wednesday, he came home.
"I'm just really grateful that this day has happened for him," said Copeland.
His niece was among the family members at McGhee Tyson Airport who will escort his remains to Kingston where he'll be buried in his family plot.
Governor Bill Lee has declared a day of mourning from sunrise to sunset on Sunday, May 26, in honor of Delaney's service.
He will be buried on Monday, May 27, in Kingston.
That happens to be his sister's - Frankie's mom's - birthday.