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A fallen hero is welcomed home

By: Lacy Hilliard
Tomahawk Writer/Photographer
A memorial service was held in honor of PFC Cecil Harris on Thursday, July 24 at the National Guard Armory in Mountain City. The service was packed with family, friends and veterans all gathered together to remember a man that was lost nearly 70 years ago.
PFC Cecil Harris was killed in action during World War II. Harris was deployed with the Thunderbirds 45th Infantry Division. His division took heavy casualties during Operation Nordwind –a battle that would prove to be the last major German offensive on the Western Front. Today, there are still 144 men missing from Cecil’s division and up until August of 2013, Cecil’s name was amongst the missing.

The only information William Harris (Cecil’s only son) had about his father came from memories relayed by family members as well as a journal written by one of Cecil’s comrades that suggested Cecil went missing after a battle with the Germans north of Dambach, France. A call William received in September of 2013 proved to be the first step in clearing away the shroud of mystery that surrounded his father’s death. It would also prove something that William Harris knew in his heart all along –his father died a hero.
In August of 2013, four hikers traveling a popular trail in Dambach, France discovered Cecil’s makeshift grave that had been marked with a cross and the letter “H” presumably by his comrades all those years ago. The hikers alerted local authorities, which eventually led to a DNA test that confirmed Cecil’s identity. “I thought someone was trying to pull a hoax on me,” said William of the call he received from Dave Kerr who informed him of the discovery. But when he received correspondence from the United States Army he knew it was real. His father, whose remains lay in a shallow grave for nearly 70 years, may finally get to come home.

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