Amazing and Beautiful’: WW2 Vet’s Remains Finally Home After 80 Years

Members of the U.S. Army carry the casket for U.S. Army Air Force 2nd Lieutenant Robert L.E. Porter, who was returned home after being shot down over Germany on Feb. 4, 1944.(Photo by Stephanie Irvine)
Members of the U.S. Army carry the casket for U.S. Army Air Force 2nd Lieutenant Robert L.E. Porter, who was returned home after being shot down over Germany on Feb. 4, 1944. (Photo by Stephanie Irvine)

By Stephanie Irvine

United States Army Air Force 2nd Lieutenant Robert L. E. Porter was brought home to his eternal resting place at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood on June 10.

Porter was 23 years old when he died in combat in World War II when the airplane he was navigating, a B-24J named the “Liberator” was struck down after taking heavy anti-aircraft fire over Gotha, Germany, on February 4, 1944, according to his obituary.

Porter’s remains arrived at Midway Airport Friday, June 7, and they were escorted to Lawn Funeral Home in Orland Park by local police and motorcycles from Rolling Thunder, IL, Patriot Guard Riders, American Legion Riders and other patriotic groups.

After a service at the funeral home Monday morning, the hearse was escorted to Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood by local police and fire departments, well as motorcycles from Rolling Thunder Inc. IL, Patriot Guard Riders, American Legion Riders, the VFW and Combat Vets.

The ceremony at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery was well attended, with family members and loved ones present for Porter’s funeral honors.

Additionally, many others attended to pay their respects to Porter for his bravery, service and ultimate sacrifice. The ceremony shelter was filled to capacity with attendees spilling out into the cemetery roadway.

The Manhattan American Legion Honor Guard attended and presented colors alongside the riflemen of Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery’s Memorial Squad.

Porter received full military honors at the ceremony, which included a three-volley rifle salute, the playing of taps, and the presentation of the flag to Porter’s next of kin, niece Diana Daugherty.

Daugherty recently recounted in a Memorial Day Facebook post that Porter was married with a baby on the way when he was deployed. She stated that all but one from his plane were killed in action, and it wasn’t until a few years ago that his remains were found.

Daugherty explained that she was contacted by the government trying to verify next of kin. She and her brother submitted DNA to verify the familial relation. Porter’s remains were officially identified on December 20, 2023, some 80 years after his death.

“The whole thing was amazing and a miracle,” said Gary Kempiak, another nephew of Porter’s, who was present at the service.

“They found him through her (Diana) and Bill’s DNA.”

Following the military funeral service, the family was taken to Porter’s gravesite for a private viewing.

Stephanie Irvine is a freelance reporter. Photos by Stephanie Irvine.

Porter’s casket was driven from an Orland Park funeral home where services were held over the previous weekend. Then, it was taken to Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, where members of the U.S. Army delivered the casket for the service there.

Porter’s niece, Diana Daugherty, receives a second ceremonial flag from a member of the Patriot Guard Riders, one of the groups that accompanied his casket from Midway to the funeral home the previous Friday, and from the funeral home to the national cemetery on June 10. Next to Daugherty is Bill Kempiak, one of Porter’s nephews who attended the ceremony. Government officials were able to identify Porter’s closest next of kin through their DNA samples.

Members of the Manhattan American Legion offer a salute to Porter after presenting the colors.

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