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FRANKFORT, N.Y. — A World War II airman from central New York whose remains were recovered in the South Pacific last year was buried Tuesday in the hometown cemetery plot his family kept for decades in the hopes his body would be found.
Sgt. Dominick Licari's funeral Mass was held Tuesday at Our Lady Queen of Apostles Church in Frankfort, in the western Mohawk Valley near Utica. Members of the Patriot Guard motorcycle escort group held American flags on the church steps of as Licari's flag-draped casket was carried inside by pallbearers in a 12-member Army honor guard. About 200 mourners attended the service, according to funeral director Vincent Iocovozzi, a distant relative of the Licari family.
Over the entrance at the nearby Mount Olivet Cemetery, a 40- by 60-foot U.S. flag was suspended from the extended ladder of an aerial fire truck. In addition to Licari's surviving brother and sister, several nieces and nephews, about 50 Patriot Guard members and several World War II veterans attended the burial held in the Licari family plot, where a marker with the airman's name was installed after he was officially declared dead in 1946.
Military officials notified Licari's family last month that his remains had been found in Papua New Guinea in 2012 and positively identified.
The 31-year-old Licari was a gunner aboard a two-man A-20 Havoc bomber that crashed into a mountain while returning from a combat mission against the Japanese in March 1944. The pilot, 2nd Lt. Valorie Pollard of Monterey, Calif., was also killed. His remains have been recovered and will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery on a date yet to be determined, military officials said.
Licari's remains were identified at the U.S. military's Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii using DNA samples provided by one of Licari's brother. A casket containing the remains arrived at the Albany airport last Friday. Hundreds of people lined Route 5 leading into Frankfort to watch the hearse carrying the casket pass by and pay tribute to the fallen airman, one of nine children born to Italian immigrants.
En route to the cemetery, the funeral possession passed the former Licari homestead, Iocovozzi said.
"We got him home," he said. "It's the greatest gift, to get him home."