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World War II soldier who died in 1942 laid to rest at Winter Beach Pioneer Cemetery

Army Private Robert Hurst accounted for with DNA, forensics
Posted at 12:45 AM, Feb 18, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-18 00:45:34-05

VERO BEACH, Fla. — A Vero Beach family finally has closure after a generation of mystery, sadness and uncertainty.

World War II Army Private Robert Hurst was buried with full military honors Saturday at Winter Beach Pioneer Cemetery in Indian River County.

Family, friends and veterans groups attended.

Robert Hurst's nephew Donald Hurst reflected on the day.

"Closure," he said. "In our family, that will be, it's a lot of happiness."

Private Robert Hurst died in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp in the Philippines in 1942.

U.S. Army Pvt. Robert L. A. Hurst  02082024
U.S. Army Pvt. Robert L. A. Hurst will be buried at Winter Beach Cemetery in Vero Beach, Fla. on Feb. 17, 2024.

Donald Hurst and other family members provided key DNA samples to the military almost seven years ago.

It helped identify Robert Hurst's remains, first buried in the Philippines, but now buried at home.

"I never met my uncle," Donald Hurst said. "He died before I was born, but I'd have loved to (have) met him."

The funeral services started at Cox-Gifford Seawinds Funeral Home in Vero Beach.

Funeral for Robert Hurst at Cox-Gifford Seawinds Funeral Home, Feb. 17, 2024
Family and friends attend a funeral for Robert Hurst, who was killed in the Philippines in 1942, at the Cox-Gifford Seawinds Funeral Home, Feb. 17, 2024, in Vero Beach, Fla.

Hurst was memorialized with an open casket with what would have been his World War II-era uniform and his military medals.

"We feel strongly that this ceremony is about our family, but it's also about this community," Robert Hurst's cousin, Barbara Rice, said during the service. "It's a reminder of the men and the women who have served our country."

Local veteran advocate and retired Army Lt. Col. Tony Young also spoke.

"We salute you, Robert, for what you've done, but keep in mind the lives of those who have no closure and God bless America,"

Bringing Robert Hurst home means a great deal to the veteran community.

"We don't leave people behind, you know," Sebastian Area Veterans Honor Guard member Paul Baribault said. "We bring everybody home, so that's the importance, and we're finally bringing one of them home."

At the cemetery, the American Flag was presented to the Hurst family.

Robert Hurst is now laid to rest next to his mother and father.