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The remains of a Highland county man, who died in the Pearl Harbor attack, are buried

A Navy program helped to bring home the remains of the local sailor who died at Pearl Harbor on Dec 7, 1941. Musician First class Joseph Hoffman was aboard the USS Oklahoma during the attack.

The remains of a sailor who died during the Pearl Harbor attack 81 years ago have finally come home to Ohio.

Joseph Warren "Hope" Hoffman died on the USS Oklahoma the morning of the December 7 Pearl Harbor attack in 1941. He was 24. His remains were initially recovered by divers but weren't identified as his until 2020 using DNA.

John Moomaw is one of the next of kin. Hoffman was his great-great-uncle. Before the Navy contacted him last year, he didn't even know of Hoffman's existence, and other than distant cousins, Moomaw doesn't have any family left near the small village where Hoffman is being buried, but he still wanted to be there.

"It's a pretty big honor," Moomaw said. "So we just thought it'd be the right thing to do, to come and check it out and be part of it.

The Navy said it's common with the recently identified sailors from Pearl Harbor for the next of kin to be distant relatives. Those killed were often in their early 20s and didn't have children of their own. The last few years, the Navy has been doing hundreds of funerals like these.

Rear Admiral Gene Price was at the burial. He said he felt grateful so many people came to welcome Hoffman home.

"This is something that's seen as keeping faith with the mothers, the fathers, the sisters, the brothers, the wives, the boyfriends, girlfriends. It's a solemn vow that we make, and we hope we never have to keep it." Price said, "But a promise made is a debt unpaid and here we are. We're keeping our promise."

In the Navy, Hoffman was a musician. He played the piano, the baritone and stringed instruments.

Kristen Snitzer is also a musician — first class.

She's stationed in Norfolk, Va., and traveled here to play "Taps" on a trumpet at the funeral. She's done several Pearl Harbor funerals this year, but this one is unique.

"This is pretty special," she said. "I'm active duty from the U.S. Fleet Forces Band and everyone was real intrigued by this because Mr. Hoffman was a rated musician during the attacks on Pearl Harbor."

Hoffman is now buried next to his mother, father, brother and sister.

Thirty-three people from the USS Oklahoma still remain unidentified.

Chris Welter is a reporter and corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

Chris Welter is the Managing Editor at The Eichelberger Center for Community Voices at WYSO.

Chris got his start in radio in 2017 when he completed a six-month training at the Center for Community Voices. Most recently, he worked as a substitute host and the Environment Reporter at WYSO.