HANFORD, Calif. (KGPE) — “Closure” is the word family members of Royal Lawrence Waltz repeated on Monday as they finally got to honor him at his final resting place, nearly 77 years after he died in the battle of Tarawa.
More than 1,000 soldiers died in that battle, and more than 2,100 were wounded.
“It’s a bittersweet day of closure for our family,” said Cindy Garcia, Waltz’s great-niece.
Although Garcia never got the chance to meet her great uncle – a native of Hanford who enlisted in the Marines in 1941 – she says his legacy was always alive within her family.
“I used to ride my bike around this cemetery, and we would always stop by Grandma’s grave, and we always knew that Royal’s plaque was right in front,” she said.
That plaque stood for decades, but Royal’s remains were missing.
They weren’t found until 2013 and weren’t identified as his until 2019 – 76 years after he died for his country.
“They were always missing in action, so we assumed he probably got washed out to sea,” said Royal’s nephew, Donald Danse.
On Monday, a service was held for Royal at First United Methodist Church in Hanford, followed by a burial at the Grangeville Cemetery. His family members, finally able to lay him to rest.
“I’m sad that his parents and siblings couldn’t be here to witness this, but it’s quite an honor to be here in their place and to do the honor for them,” Garcia said.