August 11, 2018 07:33 PM
(ABC 6 News) -- Decades ago a Pine Island man went missing in action during World War II. Saturday, his family, and the community finally got closure.
Community members gathered to honor and remember Wayne Spriestersbach with a memorial plaque and a ceremony. That plaque is placed on a family headstone in the Pine Island Cemetery.
The ceremony on Saturday has been 18 years in the making.
Nearly two decades ago, Fire Chief Eric Kerska got a phone call.
"He asked me to try to help a family to find out what happened to their loved one in World War II," said Fire Chief Kerska.
Eventually, he learned that Wayne Spriestersbach was in the Philippines and fought in the Battle of Bataan, which began hours after Pearl Harbor was attacked. Shortly after, he became a P.O.W and died in November of 1942.
After uncovering this information, Fire Chief Kerska was able to share what he learned with Wayne’s cousin Beverly who is now in her 90s.
"I've gotten to know Beverly very well. She wanted Wayne to not be forgotten. The purpose of the ceremony today is that we put a plaque on the headstone so he won't be forgotten," said Fire Chief Kerska.
Many people came out to remember his story, including veterans, POW/MIA riders and members from the Brainerd Unit.
Command Sgt. Maj. Shane Hybben says he has a special connection to Wayne.
"He fought right alongside our unit, the 1-194. Truly you can relate. All the books I've read and from the people in the unit who wrote the books on what events took place, I can understand them. I obviously wasn't there but you can empathize with them," said Command Sgt. Maj. Hybben.
For others who don’t know Wayne’s story or the story of Bataan, Fire Chief Kerska hopes Wayne’s plaque inspires the curiosity.
"Now we have a plaque that will be here forever that people walking by generations from now will see this and maybe it will spike some interest," said Fire Chief Kerska.
Updated: August 11, 2018 07:33 PM
Created: August 11, 2018 07:17 PM
Copyright 2018 - KAAL-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company