By Michael Abeyta

DENVER (CBS4)– At Fort Logan National Cemetery, there’s a funeral almost every day. On Thursday, there was a once-in-a-lifetime memorial service.

“It took 70 years,” said Gary Eakes.

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Gary and his sister, Janice Cope, were the only family there as they said their final goodbyes while the U.S. Navy and Department of Veterans Affairs honored their uncle.

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Wallace Eakes was a sailor stationed on the USS Oklahoma on Dec. 7, 1941. He was killed in action when Japanese torpedoes capsized his ship in Pearl Harbor.

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“They said the last time they saw him he was yelling, ‘Get to moving. This is no drill,'” said Gary.

Wallace Eakes (credit: CBS)

The siblings never knew the man, but “Uncle Wally” was always in their hearts because the pain of losing an uncle, a brother, and a son lingers.

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Janice remembers, “Grandma used to wake up during the night and go to the door because she thought he was one of the ones that was coming home.”

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When Gary got the call that his uncle’s remains had been identified through DNA matching, he was caught off guard, “I thought I was being scammed at first.”

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“I had doubts all the way,” said Gary.

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As unbelievable as it sounded, when Gary found out it was real, he knew he had to do something.

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Eakes was originally from Kansas, but after his death, his family moved to Colorado. Gary chose to bury him in Colorado to be close to them, “I put him over here because the immediate family is all here.”

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Now, 77 years after that infamous date changed America– and the Eakes family– forever, Gary Eakes and Janice Cope welcomed their dear Uncle Wally home.

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“We did the best we can. We had no idea that this would ever happen,” said Gary.

Michael Abeyta is a 4th generation Coloradan and a Multimedia Journalist for CBS4. His stories can be seen on CBS4 News at 5 & 6. He is on Twitter! Follow him @AbeytaCBS4.

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