HOUSTON (FOX 26) - Welcome home soldier. It's been 73 years, but the recently identified remains of Private Lonnie Eichelberger are finally back from Italy and are with family.
"My grandmother talked about him. She talked about my younger brother and how she wished she could find him," said his grandnephew Rev. Cheyenne Eichelberger.
Find him because he was buried with other unidentified soldiers from his unit. He enlisted at age 16 and served in the segregated 92nd Infantry Division. He earned a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star before dying in combat in early 1945.
The 92nd was the only African American infantry unity to see combat in Europe. Nicknamed "The Buffalo Soldiers," their motto was "Deeds not words". The founder of the Buffalo Soldiers Museum says it was their deeds under fire that helped desegregate the Army in 1948 and America.
"I think the military was at the vanguard of the modern civil rights movement. When soldiers came back from WWII and went through the process, of the GI bill, they started to grow a strong middle class we see today. That started the civil rights movement," said Capt. Paul J.Matthews.
Th Army made several attempts to identify Eichelberger's remains and finally identified him and more than a dozen unknowns from his unit in 2015. Now back home, he will be interred at the national cemetery and his family will have long overdue closure.
"They make great sacrifices of the time they put in. But the families that serve along with them also make sacrifices. I would tell people not to take their freedom lightly," said Eichelberger, himself a Navy veteran.