ZEELAND, Mich. (WOOD) — There is as commonality among those who serve their country, even if they’re separated by wars and decades.

That commonality brought Vietnam Veteran Earl Klein to the Zeeland Cemetery Thursday morning.

“At my home, I flag an American Flag and a missing in action flag. And I’ll fly that until I no longer can,” Klein said.

A memorial for Cpl. LaVerne Van Dyke.

For years, the family of U.S. Army Air Force Cpl. LaVerne “Dirk” Van Dyke gathered by a flat stone in Zeeland cemetery with his name engraved along with the years 1905 to 1945, the year the Army declared the 38-year-old Corporal presumed dead.

It’s a marker for a man who didn’t come home.

Until now.

Nearly 80 years after his plane went missing in the pacific theater, the Zeeland native was laid to rest Thursday.

Dozens of family members and people from the community who never met Van Dyke turned up for his funeral.

Reverend Chad Pierce, the pastor of Faith Christian Reform Church who served in the US Marine Corp, officiated at the funeral and hoped to convey a message during the service.

“As we approach Memorial Day, to think about the sacrifices that so many men and women have made for our country and for the freedom that we have,” said Pierce. “In a county that is so divided in so many areas today, I think it’s time like this that remind us that we are one nation.”

  • U.S. Army Air Force Cpl. LaVerne Van Dyke, who died while serving in World War II, was laid to rest in Zeeland on May 12, 2022.
  • LaVerne "Dirk" Van Dyke (front row, fourth from left) is seen with fellow soldiers at Camp Custer in June 1942. (Courtesy)
  • U.S. Army Air Force Cpl. LaVerne Van Dyke, who died while serving in World War II, was laid to rest in Zeeland on May 12, 2022.
  • U.S. Army Air Force Cpl. LaVerne Van Dyke, who died while serving in World War II, was laid to rest in Zeeland on May 12, 2022.
  • U.S. Army Air Force Cpl. LaVerne Van Dyke, who died while serving in World War II, was laid to rest in Zeeland on May 12, 2022.
  • U.S. Army Air Force Cpl. LaVerne Van Dyke, who died while serving in World War II, was laid to rest in Zeeland on May 12, 2022.
  • U.S. Army Air Force Cpl. LaVerne Van Dyke, who died while serving in World War II, was laid to rest in Zeeland on May 12, 2022.

Cpl. Van Dyke and six fellow crew members were declared missing and presumed dead after their B-25 went down in 1943.

In 1998, an American who specializes in searching for lost World War II aircraft found the remains in a remote area of Papua New Guinea.

It took another 20 years to positively identify the remains and another three years to bring Van Dyke home and bring his family closure.

“It also shows the extent to which the military’s tradition of bringing everybody home to rest with their relatives and so on is conducted these days,” Steve Klomparen, Van Dyke’s great nephew, said.

One veteran hopes the message of the funeral, nearly 80 years in the making, carries on every day.

“If you have great education, thank a soldier. If you get to go to church on Sunday and worship, thank a soldier,” Klein said. “Simple as that.”