“Holding back tears:” Soldier who lost his life in Vietnam finally laid to rest

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KENOSHA (WITI) -- For nearly five decades, the family of a Kenosha serviceman has waited for the chance to give him a proper burial. On Veterans Day, Tuesday, November 11th, they final got that opportunity.

"I've been wearing his patch on my vest for several years now, never thinking this would happen," family friend Eddie Schmitz said.

"The military called about a month ago to announce they had found remains of him in Vietnam. They had them DNA analyzed to say that 'yes, they are your brother Jim's," James Van Bendegom's brother Mike said.

On Tuesday, family members, friends and even some who never met James Van Bendegom came together in Kenosha's Sunset Ridge Memorial Park to pay their respects to the Army specialist who lost his life in Vietnam.

"We thought it was fitting that we lay Jim to rest on (Veterans Day) -- this most special day," James Van Bendegom's brother Gary said.

"I'm holding back tears," U.S. Army veteran Rich Bowker said.

Van Bendegom went missing in action in 1967. Forty-seven years later, his mother and brothers were finally able to attend his funeral.

"We're gonna go on with our lives hereafter not forgetting, and passing on that word of his sacrifice that he's made for his country like so many other veterans," Van Bendegom's brother Bob said.

This day, that Van Bendegom's family has waited decades for is an important reminder not to give up.

"You know, there's always a possibility that some -- at least a part of that person can come home and finally be laid to rest -- for closure," Van Bendegom's brother Gary said.

James Van Bendegom's name is etched into a memorial stone in Kenosha's Library Park, and at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, Hawaii.

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