FEEL GOOD STORY OF THE DAY: Massachusetts Sailor Killed at Pearl Harbor Finally Gets Proper Burial at Arlington National Cemetery

Frank Hryniewicz, a Seaman 1st Class from Three Rivers, Massachusetts, was among the 429 American service members who perished aboard the USS Oklahoma during the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese on December 7, 1941.

At the age of 20, Hryniewicz had enlisted in the Navy less than two years prior, driven by a desire to experience the world. After more than 80 years, he was finally laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery earlier this month.

For years, the Hryniewicz family held onto a letter from his older brother sent after the attack, urging Hryniewicz to stay in touch and informing him he had become an uncle. As the youngest of five siblings, Hryniewicz was the baby of the family and had a reputation as a charmer. His nieces and nephews grew up listening to tales of his Navy exploits.

“Darn your hide! Why in hell don’t you write? Last Sunday we heard the Oklahoma had been sent to the bottom of Pearl Harbor, ever since then we’ve been sitting on pins and needles waiting to hear from you or from the Navy Department… P.S. you’re now an uncle as of last Thursday 8:30 A.M.,” his older brother wrote.

Frank’s niece Joie Hallstrom was inspired by the stories of her uncle’s sacrifice and joined the U.S. Navy herself. Hallstrom said she felt like her family had unfinished business, since her uncle’s life had been taken so soon.

“His presence in our family did something to me, and I know that it had a big influence on me joining the Navy. I really do because I felt like there was some unfinished business there,” Hallstrom said.

On a bright May afternoon, ten members of the Hryniewicz family gathered at Arlington National Cemetery to pay tribute to their Uncle Frank. It marked the first family reunion in years. The Navy granted him full military honors.

Frances Griffin, 81, who was named after her uncle, was overcome with emotion.

“I’ve known all of this for so long. It’s a part of my life and part of family lore. I was absolutely shocked that I started crying,” Griffin said.

Griffin’s father was the one who wrote a letter to her Uncle Frank after her older brother’s birth. Tragically, he passed away just three days before Hryniewicz’s remains were identified.

“I just get the feeling that my dad would be conflicted. So happy that this is where Uncle Frank is but so sad of all the things he missed in life,” Griffin said.

During the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese, they targeted the USS Oklahoma, causing it to capsize after strafing its deck. Hryniewicz and his fellow sailors found themselves trapped inside the overturned hull. Even days later, the sounds of sailors banging from within the doomed ship could be heard. Tragically, 429 sailors aboard the Oklahoma were later declared dead.

It wasn’t until 1944 that efforts to recover the sailors’ remains from the overturned USS Oklahoma began. Initially, only 35 remains were identified. Sixty-one caskets and 45 graves were unearthed from the National Memorial Cemetery in Honolulu. Shockingly, a single casket held the partial remains of 100 sailors.

Since 2015, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency has been diligently working to piece together the remains of those lost aboard the USS Oklahoma. Carrie LeGarde, leading the USS Oklahoma Identification Project, reported that her team successfully identified 362 of the missing service members from Oklahoma, accounting for 92%.

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“We needed to devote a lot of time and resources to this project to be that successful,” LeGarde said.

“We were able to provide answers to so many family members and that’s really rewarding. It can be a little bit emotional, to be able to see kind of this part of the project, where men are being returned home or to other national cemeteries for burial and it’s giving that kind of closing of a chapter in those families’ history.”

The Hryniewicz family felt that their cherished uncle had finally received the dignified burial he deserved.

“What I feel is an incredible sense of relief. He’s home. We brought him home. And I just believe so deeply that our veterans, deceased, present, we need to take care of these people who have put their lives on the line for us,” Hallstrom said.

Hallstrom was moved that her uncle would finally be with his shipmates.

“For me, the importance of him being here is that he will not be forgotten. This is in perpetual honor. Anybody can see where he is and he’s with his shipmates. And that gives me goosebumps. He’s with the people who meant the most to him while he served,” Hallstrom said.

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By Hunter Fielding
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