INDIANAPOLIS — Fred Freet was an 18-year-old Marine Private from Marion, Indiana when he was sent to the Pacific to fight in World War Two.
He was part of the first waves of assault on the small island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll of the Gilbert Islands.
He died there on November 20, 1943 — one of about 1,000 Sailors and Marines who were killed over several days of intense fighting that all but annihilated the Japanese.
Freet was buried on the island, but his remains could not be identified.
In 2015, The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency received remains from Betio Island, and three years later, made a positve identification of Freet.
This week, the remains were met at the Indianapolis airport by a Marine honor guard from Grissom Air Reserve Base and several relatives of Freet.
"Before today, he was just a picture on a mantle to us," said nephew Bill Freet. "This feels like a huge victory for our family because for so many years no one knew what happened to him."
"Grissom is so proud to play a part in this hero's return, said Colonel Larry Shaw, the 434th Air Refueling Wing commander. "The culture of military heritage and the bond that we have for those that served before us was on full display with our Marines taking care of one of their own."
On Thursday, Freet will be buried at the Marion National Cemetery in Grant County, his journey of 76 years has come to an end.