SOUTH CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – A World War II soldier returned home to the Mountain State to his final resting place, 78 years after being reported missing in action.

U.S. Army Cpl. Joseph H. Gunnoe, a Charleston native, was officially identified on Sept. 14, 2022, and laid to rest on Wednesday, Dec. 14, at Sunset Memorial Park with Military graveside honors.

“It’s sad that we went missing, but it’s great that he’s finally getting to come home,” said Batson Sheets, Gunnoe’s great great great nephew.

According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), Gunnoe was 21 years old at the time he was declared missing in November 1944. His unit was fighting German soldiers near the Belgium border when he became separated from them.

The DPAA said because his body was never recovered or identified after the battle and German troops never reported him as a prisoner of war, Gunnoe was declared as killed in action after the war was over.

Gunnoe’s great-great nephew, Morgan Sheets, said many of those who knew him have already passed, but his memory has been kept alive all these years through stories told at the dinner table.

“He was kind of an urban legend in the family, ‘Whatever happened to uncle Joe?’ There were many discussions around the dinner table about him,” said Morgan Sheets. “Two of his brothers went looking for him after the war so the family has been waiting a long time to bring him home.”

Morgan Sheets said he hopes the story of Gunnoe can inspire other families who still have soldiers lost at war.

“It’s a good thing, we want to get it out there for people to hear,” he said. “So, if they have missing family members, please turn in your DNA because they’re actively looking for our lost service members.”