More than 70 years after he went missing in action, Army Pvt. John P. Sersha is finally coming home. And, fittingly, the World War II veteran will be buried Memorial Day weekend on the Iron Range where he was raised.

"That was my plan," said his nephew, Richard Lohry, whose DNA helped identify Sersha more than 71 years after his death. "That was my prayer."

Sersha was entrenched with his company on a hill overlooking German-controlled woods near Groesbeek, Netherlands, when he and two other "bazooka men" were sent on an assault mission on Sept. 27, 1944, and never returned, according to Pentagon records.

In April 1948, three years after the war's end, two sets of remains were located in those woods; one was identified as one of Sersha's fellow soldiers and the other possibly being Sersha but ultimately ruled unknown.

Those mystery remains were buried at a U.S. military cemetery in Belgium — identified as Unknown X-7429 — and have rested there until Sersha's family asked for their removal, based on dental comparisons of family and military records.

The disinterment occurred this past December, and DNA tests by the Defense Department at the Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska found a match with Lohry and a brother of Sersha's, the Defense Department's POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced Friday.

Lohry said that when the phone call came on March 28 — the day after Easter — from a military staffer in mortuary affairs, a woman on the other end said, " 'Are you sitting down?' I told her, 'I don't need to sit down. I know.' "

Lohry, who lives in the Iron Range town of Angora, said, "It was really the DNA, ultimately [that sealed confirmation], although there also was other evidence that was forensic and circumstantial."

Sersha grew up in a section of Eveleth known then as Leoneth and worked for a railroad company until he was drafted and later inducted into the Army in November 1943 at Fort Snelling, according to this family.

After training in Texas, he joined the 325th Glider Infantry Regiment, Company F, of the 82nd Airborne Division, in Maryland. From there, he was shipped out to Europe.

Lohry said his uncle's letters from Europe revealed that he had plans to marry upon his return from Europe. "Her name was Esther," said Lohry, who was just shy of a year old when his uncle was killed during Operation Market Garden, trying to secure a series of Dutch bridges to help Allied tanks get across the Rhine and into Germany near the end of the war.

Sersha is survived by siblings Paul Sersha, of Virginia, and Julia Trunzo, of nearby Mountain Iron. Three sisters, including Lohry's mother, Mary Pecher, and a brother are deceased.

Visitation for John Sersha is scheduled for 4 to 7 p.m. Friday at Bauman Family Funeral Home, 516 1st St. S., Virginia, with services to follow starting at 11 a.m. Saturday at Holy Spirit Catholic Church, 306 2nd St. S., Virginia.

From the church, Sersha will be escorted roughly 3½ miles south on Hwy. 53 to the family cemetery plot in Eveleth for burial with full military honors.

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482