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Harold Dechon is 12th recovered MIA years ago

Burial services for the Pvt. Harold E Dechon, were held March 27 in Arlington National Cemetery. Harold was a BAR gunner with Co. B, 394th Infantry and was killed on patrol in January 1945

These services were concurrent with services for the unidentified and mixed remains of Pvt. Harold E Dechon, Pvt. Earnest Brown, and Sgt. John Puckett. The last two also were members of Co B, 394th Infantry units killed on patrol during January 1945

Dechon is the 12th MIA recovered by the 99th Division MIA Project and the story of the recovery and identification of these three 99th Division soldiers covers a period of more than 13 years.

Jean Louis Seel and Jean Phillipe Speder, members of the 99th Division MIA Project recovered, on July 3, 1992, commingled remains of at least two American soldiers in the Elsenbuchel forest, north west of Rockerath-Krinkelt. These remains, designated as X-9476, were transported to the Central Identification Laboratory (CIL). Hickam Field, Hawaii, for identification.

Bill Warnock, another member of the team, published a detailed report in late 1992 that correlated Sgt. Puckett and Pvt. Brown with the X-9476 recovery site and also associated Pvt. Dechon and PFC William D. Cooper with the Elsenbuchel forest area. Warnock sent this report to CIL.

In early 2005, scientists at CIL, using mtDNA analysis, were able to match some portions of X-9476 with Sgt. Puckett and others with Pvt. Brown. In May 2005, attained positive matches between some of the hitherto unidentified portions of X-9476 and mtDNA from the family of Harold Dechon.

Pvt. Earnest E. Brown was buried July 15, 2005, in Bristol TN, and Sgt. Puckett was laid to rest July 18 in the Ardennes American Cemetery in Belgium.

An aircraft carrying one casket with Harold Dechon's remains and a second casket with the remaining and unidentifiable bones of X-9476, left Hickam Field March 23, 2006, with a military escort. On the evening of March 26, the two flag-draped caskets were on view in an Arlington VA, funeral home. Families of Pvt. Dechon and Sergeant Puckett gathered at the funeral home that Sunday evening; the Brown family, unfortunately, was unable to attend.

Monday morning was warm and sunny and thousands of tourists thronged the Washington Tidal Basin to view the Japanese cherry trees, just beginning to blossom. Nearby, soldiers of Company B of the 3rd Infantry Regiment's honor guard accompanied the casket of Pvt. Dechon to its position over one of the side-by-side graves.

Arlington Post Chapel services began at 1 p.m. with the members of the honor guard marching the Brown, Dechon, Puckett casket to the front of the church's historic altar. Two chaplains (Army and Air Force) presided over the short but impressive memorial service. Vern Swanson recited the traditional MIA Project poem, "Bury Me With the Soldiers."

The funeral cortege moved slowly, to the grave site, along the winding cemetery road, flanked by thousands of gravestones that chronicle America's history, The casket team positioned the coffin, containing remains of the three fallen soldiers, next to Pvt. Dechon's casket.

The Army chaplain began graveside services with a Bible reading, addressed to the seated families and standing participants. This reading was followed by a three-volley salute and a bugler sounding "Taps." After the last note of "Taps" sounded, the honor guard folded both casket flags into tight, neat triangles. One flag was given to Gordon Passno, Harold Dechon's nephew. Two more folded flags were accepted by Sharon Hughes, John Puckett's niece, and Marleen Harris, Harold Dechon's niece.

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