WWII veteran from Juda finally buried and honored in hometown

A WWII veteran who died in Pearl Harbor was finally able to come home.
Published: May. 27, 2023 at 9:11 PM CDT
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JUDA, Wis. (WMTV) - A Wisconsin war hero’s remains were identified and returned to his hometown in Juda, 81 years after he was killed during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

David Joseph Riley grew up in foster care in Juda, Wisconsin, eventually joined the U.S. Navy and then died in Hawaii during the attack on Pearl Harbor aboard the U.S.S. Oklahoma at age 25.

The Juda community could not bury Riley at home because officials did not know where his remains were until recent scientific advancements made it possible to identify them.

”It means the end of a long long journey of bringing these remains home,” Riley’s distant relative Hazel Matzke said.

Deb Krauss grew up hearing about her distant relative through her family who raised him after his birth parents put him into foster care. Riley was born in Green Bay, Wis. and then raised by the Matzke family in Green County.

Krauss’ parents, grandparents and generations before them shared how he had died during World War II but his remains were never brought home.

She organized the remembrance ceremony at Juda High School on Saturday where the community gathered to look at historical artifacts from Riley’s life, participate in a traditional procession and bury the purple heart awardee at Mount Vernon Cemetery.

”Even though this happened over 81 years ago, it’s still not forgotten, it’s remembered,” Krauss said. ”It’s joyous, I think, and it’s sad in a way because I think David’s life wasn’t real easy and I think he was starting to find himself in The Navy.”

After Riley died in 1941, the Juda community hoped to one day bury him at home.

The Wisconsin Patriot Guard Riders, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency and the U.S. Navy worked together to identify the remains using DNA evidence and then reached out to Krauss, who started a website and Facebook page to find Riley’s remains.

”I hope that David would be happy to have come home to Juda and will have realized how much he was cared about and remembered here,” Krauss said.

Riley will also receive honors at the Mount Vernon Cemetery on Memorial Day at 10:30 a.m.

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