It’s not every day the shoulders of four-lane highways and overpasses are lined with families holding flags and waiting for a hearse to pass.
But that happened Friday as word spread that the remains of a recently-identified Navy seaman who died in the 1941 attack at Pearl Harbor would be passing through the area on the way from Hartsfield Jackson International Airport in Atlanta to a funeral home in North Carolina.
Navy Seaman 2nd Class Frank Wood, 25, of Jackson, Ohio, was one of those who died when the USS Oklahoma, moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, was sunk by Japanese aircraft during the attack.
A procession escorting the hearse carrying Seaman Wood passed through the area on I-85, I-985, Ga. 365 and U.S. 441, with veterans, residents, families and public safety personnel gathering along the way to salute the fallen hero.
In Hall, Habersham and Rabun counties, orchestrated and spontaneous displays of patriotism and tribute took place, culminating when the procession passed.
In Habersham County, emergency personnel stood by at intersections, stopped cross traffic onto Ga. 365 and escorted the motorcade.
On the Business 441 overpass in Cornelia, Cornelia firefighters and police, area veterans and a number of others gathered underneath a giant American flag draped from the Cornelia Fire Department ladder truck as the procession passed.
A total of 429 crewmen aboard the USS Oklahoma were killed in the early morning hours of Dec. 7, 1941, after the ship quickly capsized from the numerous torpedo hits.
Wood will be buried Saturday with full military honors in Franklin, N.C.
The U.S. Defense Department’s POW/MIA Accounting Agency reports Wood’s remains were among those considered unidentified and buried in Honolulu in the years that followed. In 2015, crews began exhuming the remains for more analysis. Officials report DNA analysis and dental comparisons helped identify Wood’s remains.
Sadly, like so many of his shipmates, Wood was buried with nearly 400 others as unknowns in 46 plots in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu.
In 2015, as part of the USS Oklahoma Project, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, through a partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs, exhumed all of the unknown remains from the USS Oklahoma, and began the lengthy identification process.
In late 2017, DPAA made its 100th identification from the ship’s casualties.