SHERIDAN — Cpl. DeMaret Kirtley of Kaycee, who served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, will make his return journey home June 27-29.
Kirtley was missing in action following a battle in late November or early December 1950. His official date of death is Dec. 6, 1950. Kirtley was buried by enemy soldiers in an anonymous grave and his remains were returned to the U.S. government following the Korean War. He was cremated and laid to rest at a cemetery in Hawaii. Kirtley was identified last year through a sample of his father’s DNA, said Kaye Penno, Kane Funeral Home media specialist.
Kane Funeral Home is helping with funeral services and transportation of Kirtley’s remains.
“It is an honor being able to serve someone who served us so long ago,” said Daniel Sessions, an employee at Kane Funeral Home. “It is a once in a lifetime experience to see something like this.”
Kirtley’s remains will arrive from Hawaii June 27 at Billings Logan International Airport in Billings, Montana. Kane Funeral Home is coordinating with airport officials to allow members of their staff to receive the remains on the runway. Kane Funeral Home is also trying to receive approval for Kirtley’s family to be there on the runway. Once Kirtley’s remains are secured, he will be under military escort at all times.
Kane Funeral Home has been working closely with the military and other groups that will help provided escort services for Kirtley’s remains. A lot of communication has gone into providing the proper escort, support and honors that Kirtley and his family deserve, Sessions said.
From the airport to the Wyoming-Montana border, Kirtley’s remains will be escorted by the Montana Freedom Riders, Montana Patriot Guard, Montana Vietnam Legacy Veterans and the Montana Highway Patrol. From the border to the funeral home, Kirtley’s remains will be escorted by the Wyoming Freedom Riders, Wyoming Patriot Riders, Wyoming Vietnam Legacy Veterans, Wyoming Highway Patrol, Sheridan County Sheriff’s Office and the Sheridan Police Department.
The escort will travel down Main Street, and those in the area are encouraged to step out and show their support for Kirtley and his family, Sessions said.
“If we could get a whole town to welcome him back it would show huge support from the community for his remaining family and friends,” Sessions said.
Kane will host a public viewing opportunity June 28 from 9:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.
Kirtley’s remains will be taken to the gymnasium at Harold Jarrard Park in Kaycee June. An escort from Johnson County Sheriff’s Office will meet the procession at the Sheridan-Johnson county line. A public viewing will begin at 9:30 a.m. and a memorial service will follow at 10 a.m. The memorial service will be officiated by U.S. Army Champlain Randy Sawyer. Kirtley’s remains will be buried next to his family in the Kaycee Cemetery with full military honors. A reception in the gymnasium will follow.