While some folks in Athens were grilling out, others spent their day welcoming home a man who was killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Community members gathered at the Limestone County Event Center to remember and honor Edgar Gross, as well as other loved ones, who died while serving our country.
Those folks then joined Gross's family for a special memorial service at Cherry Grove Baptist Church, and, afterwards, his remains were finally buried in his hometown.
WAAY 31 talked with community members who participated in the special homecoming.
“Man, it’s a moving experience for me. I almost had tears in my eyes on the way over here, riding with the guys," Jerry Hardaway said. "It’s a wonderful thing to honor the veterans.”
Jerry Hardaway says Memorial Day is very special to him.
“I’ve just always had a special place in my heart for veterans, and I couldn’t pass this opportunity up to show my support," he said.
That’s why he immediately jumped at the chance to be involved with the homecoming of a man who died in the attack on Pearl Harbor.
“After all of these years, to know he’s finally back at home in Limestone County, that’s really great," Hardaway said.
And he’s not the only one who spent the day welcoming Edgar Gross back to Limestone County after the sailor’s body remained unidentified for more than 77 years.
“Take off vacation and not go out and do anything else, except celebrate this Memorial Day and thank our veterans," Nicole Towe.
Towe says she couldn’t imagine herself spending Memorial Day any other way.
“I know several people who served, and some of my friends have gone into the military," she said. "I just like to support them, because they are giving their lives for us, for our country.”
Both Nicole Towe and Jerry Hardaway told WAAY 31 they were happy to see the kind of turnout the event had.
“People are finally realizing Memorial Day is for the sacrifices our veterans have made," Hardaway said.
And Towe has a special message for Edgar Gross and others who’ve paid the ultimate price for our freedom.
“Thank you from the bottom of our hearts," she said.
WAAY 31 also spoke with Edgar Gross's family about their special Memorial Day, as they were finally able to lay a loved one to rest. The family told WAAY 31 it was a day they never thought they'd see.
“Sadly, I’d almost given up hope after all the roadblocks we’d gone through over the years," Stephen Gross said. "For them to have found him, and him coming home, it’s like I have to pinch myself. It’s very surreal.”
Stephen Gross said he felt like he was living a dream after the remains of his great uncle, Edgar Gross, were identified.
Edgar Gross's family had been waiting to welcome him home for more than 77 years.
“They actually used this photograph to match his skull, to match his teeth up with the smile, and it was a perfect match," Stephen Gross said, "There’s no question we’ve got Uncle Ed.”
Edgar Gross made his way to his final resting place in Limestone County on Memorial Day, and his family was amazed at the amount of support from their community.
“Blown away," Linda Boeko said. "The people standing on the side of the roads, holding flags, with hands over their hearts. It’s been incredibly moving to watch.”
“They’ve just reached out and opened their arms to us like we were their own. They don’t know us. I know they didn’t know Ed," Stephen Gross added.
Stephen Gross says the folks in the community helped make it a perfect homecoming for his great uncle.
“Welcome home, Uncle Ed," he said.
Edgar Gross served on the U.S.S. Oklahoma. His remains were previously buried as an unknown soldier at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.
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