The remains of U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Michael Aiello arrived at St. Louis Lambert International Airport on Wednesday afternoon, before being brought back to his hometown of Springfield, Illinois where he will be buried with proper U.S. military honors.
Sgt. Aiello has been MIA/KIA (missing in action/killed in action) since World War II. He was killed in battle during Operation Market Garden in the Netherlands on September 30, 1944. Although it was known he died in the battle, his body was never identified, which is why he was also MIA.
The Aiello family, who calls their loved one "Uncle Mike" has always been hopeful he would return someday, and that day finally came on Wednesday.
"His brothers that survived him never knew what happened so its great closure to the family," said Brian Aiello, the great-great nephew of Sgt. Aiello.
When caskets of U.S. soldiers return home, it's usually a sad day, but for this family, it was more of a celebration because they've been waiting 73 years for their Uncle Mike to come home.
"A lot of family members who didn't serve are feeling a sense of pride for all veterans who have served," said Brian Aiello.
About eight years ago, the U.S. Department of Defense began contacting the Aiello family about a set of remains found in the Netherlands.
"He was buried in a grave titled as 'Unnamed Soldiers' in the National Cemetery in the Netherlands. They kept coming back and did all the forensics and were able to widdle it down to 60 people and then down to three people, and that's when the family got involved in DNA testing," said Brian Aiello.
The remains were confirmed as Staff Sgt. Michael Aiello's in May 2017.
The Aiello family is full of more gratitude than sadness.
"Very thankful to the government for never giving up and bringing him back," said Brian Aiello.
The Illinois Patriot Guard and Staab Family Funeral home were alongside the remains as they made a procession back to Springfield, Illinois.
Staff Sgt. Aiello was born on July 10, 1909, in St. Louis. He was the youngest of 16 children. In 1912, he moved with his family to Sherman, Ill. to attend grade school. He eventually moved to Springfield with his family to work until he joined the U.S. Army. He was 35-years-old when he died. He was not married and did not have any children.
The funeral will be open to the public at Camp Butler National Cemetery in Springfield at 10 a.m. on Saturday, October 28.
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