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77 years after Pearl Harbor, remains of a Utah Marine, who died while firing his pistol at Japanese planes, are finally coming home

(Photo courtesy U.S. Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency) Marine Pfc. Robert K. Holmes, of Salt Lake City, died aboard the USS Oklahoma during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

The envelope from Hawaii is postmarked Dec. 6, 1941. Inside is the last letter 19-year-old Marine Pfc. Robert Kimball Holmes sent home to his father in Salt Lake City.

The next day, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Holmes was serving aboard the USS Oklahoma and died with other Marines and sailors aboard it.

Holmes’ nephew, Bruce Holmes, of Sandy, on Thursday thought of his grandfather, who died in 1977, when discussing the funeral Monday for the Marine. (Robert Holmes’ mother died in 1938.) He tried to imagine his grandfather receiving that letter days or weeks after learning his son had perished.

“It must have just really rattled him after his son’s already dead,” Bruce Holmes said. “Gosh. That’d get ya.”

Now, nearly 77 years after the young Marine’s death, Robert Holmes is finally returning home. Thanks to a recent DNA match, a casket carrying his remains will arrive Friday night at Salt Lake City International Airport. A military funeral is set for 10 a.m. Monday at the Salt Lake City Cemetery.

FILE - In this May 24, 1943, file photo, the capsized battleship USS Oklahoma is lifted out of the water at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii. The military says it has identified 100 sailors and Marines killed when the USS Oklahoma capsized during the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor 76 years ago. The milestone comes two years after the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency dug up nearly 400 sets of remains from a Hawaii to identify the men who have been classified as missing since the war. (AP Photo, File)

Bob Holmes, as he was called, was the youngest of seven children. All of his siblings are dead. Bruce Holmes, 76, said his older brother, who remembers his uncle, will speak at the funeral and receive the folded flag.

Bob Holmes attended South High School, which is now the Salt Lake Community College campus on State Street. Bruce Holmes said his uncle enlisted in the Marines at age 18. He was 19 when he was serving aboard the Oklahoma.

Years after his uncle’s death, he said, a man visited another of his uncles. The man said he served with Bob Holmes aboard the Oklahoma, gave the brother a photograph of the young Marine holding a rifle with his platoon and said he saw him as the ship went down, shooting at Japanese planes overhead with his pistol.

“I guess you do what you can do,” Bruce Holmes surmised.

In May 2017, Bruce Holmes read an article about a Pearl Harbor sailor from Monroe, Navy Musician 1st Class Elliott Deen Larsen, whose remains were identified and returned for burial. Holmes decided to submit a DNA sample to the U.S. Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency to see if it could find his uncle’s remains.

Steve Griffin | The Salt Lake Tribune The Navy Honor Guard rests their hands on the casket of Elliott Larsen whose remains finally came home to the Monroe City Cemetery during graveside service in Monroe, Utah Friday May 26, 2017. Larsen's family recently learned that he died on the USS Oklahoma at Pearl Harbor.

One of Bruce Holmes’ female cousins already had submitted DNA, but he said the agency could not confirm a match. Male DNA was needed.

“About a year later," he said, “I got a call saying they had a match.”

On Thursday, Bruce Holmes had to stop and think of a word to describe how Monday will feel. The family has wanted Bob Holmes’ remains for decades. So Monday, the Sandy resident said, will be “satisfaction day.”

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