29

Sep

2015

1st Lt. Alexander Bonnyman Jr. returns home from Tarawa

By Cpl. Sara Graham, Marine Corps Forces Reserves


Maj. Gen. Burke Whitman, Headquarters Marine Corps director of Marine and family readiness, presents the American flag to the family of 1st Lt. Alexander Bonnyman Jr. at Berry Highland Memorial Cemetery in Knoxville, Tenn., Sept. 27, 2015. Bonnyman joined Marine Forces Reserve in July 1942 and was killed while fighting in the battle of Tarawa in 1943. Bonnyman’s remains were discovered in Tarawa 72 years after he was buried there.
1st Lt. Alexander Bonnyman Jr. Returns Home from Tarawa
Maj. Gen. Burke Whitman, Headquarters Marine Corps director of Marine and family readiness, presents the American flag to the family of 1st Lt. Alexander Bonnyman Jr. at Berry Highland Memorial Cemetery in Knoxville, Tenn., Sept. 27, 2015. Bonnyman joined Marine Forces Reserve in July 1942 and was killed while fighting in the battle of Tarawa in 1943. Bonnyman’s remains were discovered in Tarawa 72 years after he was buried there.
Marines from Marine Corps Barracks Washington, D.C. render military honors for 1st Lt. Alexander Bonnyman Jr. at Berry Highland Memorial Cemetery in Knoxville, Tenn., Sept. 27, 2015. Bonnyman joined Marine Forces Reserve in July 1942 and was killed during the battle of Tarawa in 1943. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions during the battle. Bonnyman’s remains were discovered in Tarawa 72 years after he was buried there.
1st Lt. Alexander Bonnyman Jr. Returns Home from Tarawa
Marines from Marine Corps Barracks Washington, D.C. render military honors for 1st Lt. Alexander Bonnyman Jr. at Berry Highland Memorial Cemetery in Knoxville, Tenn., Sept. 27, 2015. Bonnyman joined Marine Forces Reserve in July 1942 and was killed during the battle of Tarawa in 1943. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions during the battle. Bonnyman’s remains were discovered in Tarawa 72 years after he was buried there.
Marines from Marine Corps Barracks Washington, D.C., place the remains of 1st Lt. Alexander Bonnyman Jr. near his final resting place at Berry Highland Memorial Cemetery in Knoxville, Tenn., Sept. 27, 2015. Bonnyman joined Marine Forces Reserve in July 1942 and was killed while fighting in the battle of Tarawa in 1943. Bonnyman’s remains were discovered in Tarawa 72 years after he was buried there.
1st Lt. Alexander Bonnyman Jr. Returns Home from Tarawa
Marines from Marine Corps Barracks Washington, D.C., place the remains of 1st Lt. Alexander Bonnyman Jr. near his final resting place at Berry Highland Memorial Cemetery in Knoxville, Tenn., Sept. 27, 2015. Bonnyman joined Marine Forces Reserve in July 1942 and was killed while fighting in the battle of Tarawa in 1943. Bonnyman’s remains were discovered in Tarawa 72 years after he was buried there.
The U.S. Marine Drum & Bugle Corps leads the procession for 1st Lt. Alexander Bonnyman Jr. at Berry Highland Memorial Cemetery in Knoxville, Tenn., Sept. 27, 2015. Bonnyman joined Marine Forces Reserve in July 1942 and was killed during the battle of Tarawa in 1943. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions during the battle. Bonnyman’s remains were discovered in Tarawa 72 years after he was buried there.
1st Lt. Alexander Bonnyman Jr. Returns Home from Tarawa
The U.S. Marine Drum & Bugle Corps leads the procession for 1st Lt. Alexander Bonnyman Jr. at Berry Highland Memorial Cemetery in Knoxville, Tenn., Sept. 27, 2015. Bonnyman joined Marine Forces Reserve in July 1942 and was killed during the battle of Tarawa in 1943. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions during the battle. Bonnyman’s remains were discovered in Tarawa 72 years after he was buried there.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- A long procession of Marines leads an artillery caisson carrying a casket draped by an American flag. The procession marches up a steep hill to a gravesite with a large white headstone bearing the name Bonnyman.

 

Atop the hill near the headstone six Marines take the casket, lay it down and prepare to render military honors to the Marine named Bonnyman who has finally returned home.

1st Lt. Alexander Bonnyman Jr. returned home to be buried with military honors at Berry Highland Memorial Cemetery in Knoxville, Tennessee, Sept. 27, 2015. Bonnyman joined Marine Forces Reserve in July 1942 and was killed 72 years ago in Tarawa, his remains along with several other Marines and sailors who were never recovered after being lost following the

battle in 1943.

According to Bonnyman’s Medal of Honor citation, "during an assault against enemy Japanese-held Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands from Nov. 20-22, 1943, he took the initiative and led his pinned down assault troops to the beach, then voluntarily obtained flame throwers and demolitions and organized the shore party to blow up several hostile instillations. Bonnyman was determined to make an opening in the enemy’s defense line. Under heavy casualties and hostile fire, he voluntarily placed demolitions in the entrance of a large Japanese emplacement and then led his men in the assault. After gaining his objective, he made a heroic stand on the edge of the structure, defending his position and killing three enemies before he was mortally wounded."

Following the battle, Bonnyman was buried in Tarawa where his burial site was lost. In March of 2015, History Flight, a Florida-based non-profit tasked with recovering the remains of missing U.S. service members, discovered the remains of Bonnyman and his fellow Marines, giving families who never expected to have their heroes come home a new hope and the ability to bury their fallen heroes on home ground.

The Marines leading Bonnyman’s procession were joined by his family, who have waited a life time to finally lay their hero to rest.

“My grandmother and grandfather, there was one thing that they wanted after they knew he had been killed. They wanted his remains brought home,” said Alexandra Bonnyman Prejean, daughter of Bonnyman.

The family gathered at the white headstone to offer their prayers and watch as the Marines from Marine Corps Barracks Washington rendered honors for the fallen Medal of Honor hero. The Marines work hard to help families find closure and honor heroes and veterans like Bonnyman.

“We do this for the families and the Marine, no matter what, even afterwards you are a Marine, you are part of us,” said Sgt. Christopher Tryon, guide for Company A, 1st Marines, Marine Barracks 8th and I. “Even after you are gone, we will still take care of the Marine and their family.” The Marine Corps puts great importance on helping families while they are serving or once they are out. They continue to provide military honors and funeral details for fallen veterans, a task both active duty and Reserve Marines take very seriously. This funeral detail was unique and an opportunity to honor a fallen hero who was fighting for his brothers more than 70 years ago.

“His remains had been missing for 70 years and, amazingly and almost miraculously, his remains were recovered in recent weeks including 35 other Marines and sailors,” said Maj. Gen. Burke Whitman, Headquarters Marine Corps director of Marine and family readiness.

“He is one of the first to return home," said Whitman. "It is a huge honor and privilege for us to give him full military honors here in Knoxville and to be buried with the rest of his family.”

The Marines buried a hero, one they have only heard stories of and one who they have seen as an example of what it means to go above and beyond the call of duty.

“Marines love to serve and every single Marine has made the decision to serve in the defense of this country,” said Whitman. "When someone like Lt. Bonnyman serves in such an extraordinary, exemplary way by going way above and beyond the call of duty and being recognized with the Medal of Honor, it is inspiring to us and this could not be a greater day to honor that service and the inspiration he gave to others.”

1st Lt. Bonnyman Battle of Tarawa MARFORRES Marine Corps Marine Forces Reserve Medal of Honor MFR USMC