WWII Casualty Finally Laid to Rest in Native Georgia

Pvt. Odell Sharpe buried with military honors.
Pvt. Odell Sharpe buried with military honors.

After decades of worry and wonder, a Vidalia family finally has closure. This weekend, they laid to rest the remains of their loved one killed in World War II.

Sixty years after Pvt. Odell Sharpe left to defend his country, friends and family welcomed him home. Sharpe's relatives say they were torn between the sadness of losing him and the relief of finally bringing him home.

Hundreds filled the funeral home chapel and later the cemetery to remember a soldier killed in battle. "It's a big surprise," said brother George Sharpe. "I didn't figure there'd be near about this many people. It's just wonderful."

"It's a great relief for me to finally have some closure and put him where he belongs," added Mary Miller, his sister.

From the playing of Taps to the tears shed at the graveside, you might think Odell passed away last month. But he died in December 1944 in the Battle of the Bulge near the Belgian-German border. Sharpe was one of 30 or so members of the 99th Infantry whose bodies were never recovered.

Last year, Odell's was the eleventh to be found.

"When I was able to find identification and was able to read the name Odell, I knew exactly who it was," said Jen Louis Seel, who was on the search team.

Third Infantry soldiers folded the flag from Odell's casket and gave it to his family. Odell Sharpe now rests alongside veterans from the Revolutionary War and at his mother's feet.

"I'm sure she knew where he was at long before we did, and I thank God he saw fit to let us have him back," said Mary.

Family members say he and they can finally rest in peace.

Mary still remembers how her mother cried the Christmas Day Odell was killed, even though the family didn't find out until months later.

Six members of the family served in World War II and Odell was the only one not to make it home alive. Family members are just glad he's finally home.

Reported by: Dal Cannady, dcannady@wtoc.com