As for so many, Memorial Day has a special meaning for Tracey McLean, Partner with Vaughan Baio & Partners in Syracuse, New York. After years of waiting and hoping, red tape and government wrangling, Tracey’s Grandfather, 1st Lt. Gabriel J. Eggud, was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery on September 16, 2022.
It’s an amazing story of loss and recovery decades later. 1st Lt. Gabriel J. Eggud’s P-39 single seat fighter plane went down outside a remote coastal area of Papua New Guinea during a combat mission on July 6, 1944. His remains were found in 2005 but it would be another 14 years until the identity of his remains were confirmed and finally brought home. Last year, 78 years after he died, 1st Lt. Eggud was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery, just a day before the 80th anniversary of his marriage to Tracey’s grandmother Mary Elizabeth Reardon, whose nickname “Betty” was painted on the side of her husband’s plane.
Today, Tracey wears a memento from her grandfather that was miraculously recovered from the crash site – his wedding ring from his 1942 marriage to Betty. To learn more about this amazing story, please read this article from the Times-Union and this article from DCNewsNow about the burial with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery.
1st Lt. Gabriel J. Eggud’s legacy will live on through the scholarship fund established in his honor by his granddaughter, which is administered by Pacific Wrecks, a not-for-profit charity dedicated to bringing home those soldiers Missing in Action. While the scholarship fund provides educational assistance to the children of Banak, Papua New Guinea, it also honors the people of the Banak village who were instrumental in preserving the site, recovering 1st Lt. Eggud’s remains, and who provide ongoing care for his memorial at the crash site.
Here are additional links to learn more about this amazing family story:
- Pacific Wrecks announces World War II Missing in Action pilot will be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery on National POW/MIA Recognition Day (prnewswire.com)