TRAER — At least 400 people packed a Traer church Friday to at long last lay to rest one of their own.
The remains of 22-year-old sailor William L. Kvidera, who was killed at Pearl Harbor, were returned to his hometown for a funeral with full military honors. Members of the community and Kvidera’s family filled the church for the solemn ceremony.
“It’s something like a dream,” said the late sailor’s brother, John Kvidera, 91.
On Dec. 7, 1941, William Kvidera was assigned to the battleship USS Oklahoma, moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, when the ship was attacked by Japanese aircraft, said a U.S. Department of Defense press release. “The USS Oklahoma sustained multiple torpedo hits, which caused it to quickly capsize. The attack on the ship resulted in the deaths of 429 crewmen, including Kvidera.”
On Friday, members of the Patriot Guard stood outside St. Paul Catholic Church, lining the entrance with American flags. The Rev. Jon Seda, a chaplain at St. Stephen the Witness Student Center in Cedar Falls, led the service.
Freedom isn’t free, Seda said, and we enjoy it because of William Kvidera and the thousands of military servicemen and women who’ve made the ultimate sacrfice. “There is no greater honor than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends,” Seda said, quoting Jesus from the book of John.
John Kvidera hoped for this moment for many years, he said. He was 14 years old when he found out about the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
“We just had a radio and huddled around it,” he said. “We didn’t know what was going on.”
The family initially received a telegram saying William, the oldest of six brothers, was missing in action. In February 1943, a telegram arrived at their home notifying them of his death.
Not long after, John Kvidera asked his father if he could follow in William’s footsteps and join the Navy. He was met with an emphatic “no,” he said. Later on, John was drafted into the U.S. Army.
John was instrumental in William’s homecoming. In an effort to identify the bodies of servicemen killed at Pearl Harbor, the Department of Defense’s Prisoner of War and Missing Personnel Office collected DNA samples from surviving family members. John and his son, Mark, donated their DNA five years ago.
It was that DNA match that eventually brought William Kvidera home to Traer.
Petty officers Michael Mason, Christopher Beeler, Derek Hansen, Preston Gibbons and Ryan Adams, and Lt. Cmdr. Jarrod Johnson carried a flag-draped casket containing William Kvidera’s remains to his final resting place in the St. Paul Catholic Church Cemetery. Rear Adm. Deborah Haven presented the flag to John Kvidera, William Kvidera’s last surviving brother.
“Not only is that sailor important, but the service their family provides supports that sailor, so this brings closure to that team that’s behind the military,” Haven said. “Our military, our Navy couldn’t be strong without the family, so this is an opportunity to recognize that.”