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An overdue ceremony for a North Dakota veteran

A North Dakota family was finally able to properly honor the memory of a soldier after waiting over forty years.

Private Donovan Walton, who was from Minot, joined the Marines when he was about sixteen years old. Two years later in 1944 when he was eighteen, he and seven other soldiers died in a plane crash.

They were buried in a mass grave in Missouri, and since Walton’s younger brother, Ray Walton, was about sixteen himself and had no way to get to Missouri, the family was never able to receive the closure they wanted.

Jean Schafer said her father, Ray Walton, tried multiple times to have his brother’s death honored by the military, but in 2007, he passed away. Schafer said she and her sisters picked up where he left off a few years ago, and Thursday, they were finally able to attend a military ceremony honoring their uncle Donovan.

“We wanted to bring that closure in our father’s memory, hoping he’s looking down on us, smiling and proud and feeling that closure. But it’s just about that, and you don’t get that until some of these symbolic things happen,” Schafer said.

Schafer said her father eventually was able to get a stone commemorated to Donovan at the North Dakota Veterans Cemetery in the 90s. He considered it to be the first time Donovan’s death had been acknowledged by the military.

Several years after Schafer’s father died, she said she was able to connect with two men who were able to help her and her sisters piece together the soldiers’ histories.

Andy Zachmeier, who serves on the Morton County Commission, got involved when he discovered there was no record of Donovan’s family ever receiving a folded flag, medals or funeral. He said that was when he dug into Donovan’s history, and eventually, he found his commander’s notes.

“The marine commander said that every marine that was working on that aircraft, under heavy enemy fire, and did not flinch, did not run, should get a commendation. So today, hopefully, that was that commendation,” Zachmeier said.

Schafer said she ended up reaching out to Senator Cramer’s office. While they were unable to get the United States Marine Corps to help, they were able to work with the North Dakota Department of Veterans Affairs in order to arrange the overdue ceremony.

Zachmeier said there were a lot of Morton County residents who served during World War Two, but Donovan Walton’s was the first of its kind he’d come across.

Source: KFYR TV