FORT GIBSON — Renee Miller only knew Eugene Wicker through her grandmother.
“I remember his picture was on her wall,” Miller said of her grand uncle who died during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. “I think she mourned him until the day she died.”
Wicker was laid to rest Saturday at Fort Gibson National Cemetery after his remains were identified through DNA testing earlier this year. Wicker, a Seaman First Class on duty in the radio room, was among 429 crewmen who died Dec. 7, 1941 aboard the USS Oklahoma.
Miller remembers visiting her grandmother’s grave when she found out Wicker’s remains had been identified and he would be brought home.
“I said I have to go tell Nanny,” Miller said. “Just to have him home means a whole lot.”
It meant a lot to Wicker’s nephew, too.
“I’m named after him, so my granny always used to tell me ‘you have to live for two people,’” said Eugene Woodrow Wicker, whose DNA was used to identify his uncle’s remains. “For me to bring him home felt good.”
Family gathered Saturday morning at Clifford D. Garrett Family Funeral Home. Some of them hadn’t seen each other in years, and others had never met.
“There’s a lot of faces we don’t know from the Wicker side,” said Charlie Gaddy, one of the late Seaman’s grandnieces.
From there the family joined a procession of Patriot Guard Riders and local veterans to escort Wicker to the cemetery for the full service.
Sailors from the Tulsa Navy Operations Support Center bore Wicker’s coffin from the hearse to the podium. The service included a sermon and three volleys of gunshots from a rifle team, as well as a plaque and letter of invocation given by the Patriot Guard.
Wicker also was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, as well as a Presidential Honor certificate signed by President Donald Trump.
The Rev. John Wilke said, “what seemed to many to be a sad day is actually a glorious day.”
“Today we celebrate not only life and death but new life — eternal life,” Wilke said during his sermon.
Debbie Hamm, another of Wicker’s grandnieces, said being a part of the ceremony was “great.”
“There’s so much pain and anger being pushed in our country, and we’re not based on that,” Hamm said. “We’re based on things like this – respect for our country and for the people who serve it.”
Woodrow Wicker said he wanted to thank all the people who had helped his uncle home.
“Everybody has worked so hard. It’s been super,” Woodrow Wicker said. “It’s a relief to have finally got it done.”