Homecoming 21 provides grave locations for 44,000 WWI soldiers

HOBOKEN, New Jersey (WABC) -- An organization of Gold Star mothers has been researching the grave locations of World War I soldiers brought home, all as part of a tribute to their own sons and daughters.

It was 100 years ago in Hoboken that the bodies of 5,000 fallen soldiers arrived on the United States Army Transport ship Wheaton.

President Warren Harding honored them in 1921, and they were honored again Sunday, along with similar ceremonies being held throughout the country.

"The Wheaton, it was the ultimate melting pot for people who made the ultimate sacrifice," one speaker said at the Hoboken event.

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After WWI, the remains of 44,000 fallen Americans were transported home from Europe on homecoming ships that brought them back to New York Harbor. From there, they were sent to their final resting places across the country.

Their legacies continue on, thanks in part to American Gold Star Mothers.

"Imagine what their mothers would think to know their child was remembered 100 years later," Gold Star mom Judith Young said.

During the pandemic, many Gold Star mothers helped create a data base as part of Homecoming 21, a national initiative providing information on the remains of 44,000 fallen veterans and where they're buried.

"Each one of those young men I had the privilege of locating, I could actually say their name out loud," American Gold Star Mothers President Cindy Tatum said.

Tatum lost her own son, Corporal Daniel Lee Tatum, a US Marine.

"Our knock on the door came on Christmas morning," she said.

Tatum says honoring veterans who died, whether it be in battle, in training accidents, or by suicide, helps the grieving process. And they grieve not just their own children, but even for those who served more than a century ago.

"This was our way of saying, you are not forgotten," she said. "It maybe 100 years, but you're never forgotten."

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Join Eyewitness News Meteorologist Amy Freeze for our half-hour special, "Destination Summer."

For more on the initiative, visit WWIHomecoming21.org.

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