ASHLAND, Ore. -- "At least now he's coming home to be with his mom and brothers," Bill Welch told Newswatch12.
Welch was a family friend of Dale Ross, the 22 year old World War II veteran who went missing in 1943. Welch was there when Ross' parents got the telegram that said he was MIA.
"Even though I was young I can remember how difficult that was for them because they have three other boys, all of them were in the service," Welch said.
Ross' niece, Vicki Plankenhorn, said his mother never gave up hope.
"There was a lot of men taken prisoner, she never gave up hope until the prisoners were released and came home," Plankenhorn SAID. "And then at that point it was obvious that that wasn't the case."
Welch said the family went through the pain over and over again every time they would get their hopes up that he was still alive. The thought of him being a prisoner wasn't the only time they were hopeful he was still alive. Shortly after that, a photo of Ross was used on the cover of a LIFE magazine.
Ross' parents frantically called LIFE magazine to find out when they took the photo of the U.S. Army, hoping there was still a chance their son was alive. Only again, to relive the same heartbreak when they were told the photo was taken before they were notified of Ross' disappearance.
The family was left with no closure for more than seven decades. Years and years passed with no updates on the status of Ross, his whereabout or possibly his remains. Ross' parents and siblings all passed away before his dog tags were found two years ago.
An 8 year old boy found the dog tags because the tags caught his eye and were shining on the ground.
"They had a path down to this real steep canyon where they went swimming and just overtime they beat a path down and one day they found something shiny... they found the dog tags," Dale Ross, the nephew of the veteran said.
Dale Ross was named after his Uncle.
"He was the first child born and named after Dale," Welch explained. "His father was tremendously affected [by the loss of his brother] enough so, that he named his son after his brother."
Two years after the discovery of the dog tags, Dale Ross' DNA was used to identify Ross' remains. The DNA was a match and confirmed the identity of the remains. The discovery of his identity led to the discovery of how Ross died.
Ross was a fast runner, so fast that he served as a runner with an infantry unit. A month after enlisting, Ross was sent to deliver a message with his quick feet in the Battle of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands.
"They heard shooting in the area where they thought he was and they never saw him again," Dale Ross explained.
"He was found just about exactly where he was last known to be, where they heard the shooting."
The family has a meeting on May 6 to plan the ceremony to honor and bury Ross.
"We've kind of prayed all these years that there would just be a time of closure," Plankenhorn said. "We really want him to be home with his mom."
What was once just a dream for this family, is soon to become a reality. The plan is to finally reunite him with his mother and three brothers at the Memory Gardens cemetary, bringing the family closure 76 years after Ross was first reported missing.
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