Michigan family gets closure 73 years after their loved one disappears
GRAND RAPIDS —
The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor 76 years ago Thursday. That drew the U.S. into World War II.
One of the many southwest Michigan soldiers who served during that time is finally home.
Albert "Bud" Rybarczyk had been missing in action for 73 years.
Thursday, his family braved the cold and snow to his remains returned at the Grand Rapids airport.
Jim Gray comforted his great aunt as Rybarczyk's remains were slowly guided down to fellow service members.
Rybarczyk served in the Navy during World War II. He was on the USS Intrepid and served as a radioman on a TBM Avenger plane.
His niece knew her uncle only by listening to stories.
“We really didn't hear many stories because my grandmother, my aunt and my mom – it was too hard for them to talk about it," said Cindy Gray.
As years went by, the family received few answers to what happened.
Then in 2014, the Bent Prop Project found Rybarczyk's remains.
The family provided DNA samples.
In August, the Navy confirmed what the family has been waiting years to hear.
"I was just awe-struck. After 73 years, you don't expect them to find his remains. So you really have to – I don't want to say congratulate, but the men that keep on looking. They just keep on looking for the prisoners of war or for those missing in action," said Rybarczyk’s sister, Mary Ann Rybarczyk. “It's going to be heartbreaking, but at least that we know he is finally home,” she said.
The Navy released records about what happened on September 8, 1944.
Rybarczyk's mission was to bomb an ammunition plant on the Island of Palau.
“The plane my uncle was on went down and it dropped its bomb, but it was too low. As they tried to pull out, the explosion ripped a part of the wing off and so they went out and crashed at sea," Jim said.
Jim says these stories are bringing his great uncle back to life.
"I know for my siblings as well, this is starting to put a real person behind the picture," he said.
As the Rybarczyk family gets closure, they want other families to know their day is coming.
"It is a miracle that if you have someone that is still MIA, don't lose hope. There is a possibly. We are seeing that every day," Cindy said.
The family members said they can never say thank you enough to the men and women who worked so hard to bring them closure.