ELMA, Iowa (KWWL)- Hundreds gathered in Elma Saturday to welcome home fallen US Navy Hospital Apprentice 1st Class 21-year-old John M. Mulick.
"It means a lot to honor the people that have come before and honor the people that did not get to come back," VFW Post 244 Commander Darwin Cook said.
Mulick was killed during the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. Gov. Reynolds ordered flags across the staff to be at half-staff on Saturday in honor of Mulick.
"We have closure on honoring a fellow sailor that is no longer with us," Rear Admiral Robert Nowakowski said. Nowakowski serves as the Deputy Commander for Naval Education and Training.
It is the completion of an 80-year journey for Mulick. He was buried at Calvary Cemetery Saturday with full military honors.
"This guy was missing for 80 years!" Tim Hauges said. "It is just an awesome experience to be part of that!"
Mulick served aboard the USS Oklahoma for more than a year, conducting patrols and participated in various exercises. The Oklahoma was capsized due to multiple torpedo strikes on December 7th, 1941.
"He was a sailor that joined our ranks, our Navy 87 years ago," Nowakowski said. " He had a prosperous career and was able to be amongst peers and friends on the warship down there and unfortunately passed away in December of 1941."
He was initially buried in Hawaii shortly after his death since his remains were unable to be identified at the time. Through DNA testing, the military was able to match him with his brother.
On Saturday, he was buried with full military honors in his hometown.
"The bittersweetness of it is we brought him home. Unfortunately, he perished, sacrificing himself for the Navy that he loved," Nowakowski said. "On the other side, what a loss to the Navy and nation."
Nowakowski said it was tough to think about what Mulick could have been and how he could have used his military training to benefit his hometown.
"Hospital Apprentice 1st Class could have been the Elma, Iowa doctor or the town lawyer by cross rating all the skills he learned in the Navy," he said. "It is a great ceremony to see how the entire community came around. We had hundreds of people here in a small town in Iowa, Elma, that were experiencing this man's life, unfortunately, they were not able to take advantage of it, and likewise, he wasn't able to learn and love and live with them."
Mulick was laid to rest near Dennis Friedhoff, a Vietnam War Veteran also from Elma.