‘He’s Home With His Family’: Maryland Sailor Killed in Pearl Harbor Laid to Rest
SPECIAL for THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY FROM NBC 4 Washington, D.C. — A mother’s dying wish has been fulfilled Wednesday after the remains of a Maryland sailor who died in the attack on Pearl Harbor were laid to rest in his hometown in St. Mary’s County.
For 75 years, Chief Petty Officer Albert Hayden’s remains were in an unmarked grave in Hawaii, along with hundreds of other unidentified sailors killed at Pearl Harbor.
Hayden, 44 years old, served on the USS Oklahoma the day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. He is listed as the first person from Maryland to die in World War II.
“This is historic,” said Maryland Veterans Secretary George Owings, himself a Marine Corps veteran. “He was the first causality hours before war was declared. It was only fitting.”
More than 400 sailors were killed when the Oklahoma went down on Dec. 7, 1941. Most of them were never identified until last year when the Department of Defense began testing the remains using a new state-of-the-art forensic lab in Hawaii.
Hayden was one of the first soldiers identified, fulfilling his mother’s dying wish for his remains to come back home.
“It’s making his mother’s wish come true,” said Hayden’s cousin, Ronnie Kissinger.
Kissinger never got to meet her cousin.
“I knew him in my heart. Because of our family history, my mother would talk about his mother. How her heart broke when he died.”
Relatives said Hayden wanted to be a sailor when he was a little boy growing up in Leonardtown, Maryland. He enlisted in the Navy during World War I and was stationed at Pearl Harbor in December of 1941.
After his death, Hayden’s family never though his body would ever return home, but they saved a space for him in the family’s burial plot just in case.
Now, Hayden lays next to his mother and father.
The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency has identified the remains of nearly 100 service members killed overseas, including 30 from the USS Oklahoma.
There are nearly 83,000 service members who died in wars overseas who are still listed as missing.