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Forgotten letters resurface as WWII soldier’s remains return home

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Posted at 11:24 PM, Oct 12, 2013
and last updated 2013-10-13 01:24:40-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- Call it serendipity, a happy accident, or just plain amazing—but a family in Springville now knows what happened to their uncle who died in World War II.

Recently, FOX 13 News reported on the story of how the military brought his body home after half a century, and now Vernal Bird’s family has found something else.

Kay Armstrong is Bird’s niece, and she said it’s been an emotional journey.

“How it affected our home and our family and the sadness we went through for years... but mainly it's a story of real joy and homecoming,” she said.

Bird served as a pilot, and while on an important mission, his plane lagged behind and crashed into the New Guinea jungle.

“Mother and Dad said he's gone, and he's not coming back,” Lorna Bird Snyder, Bird’s niece, said.

Fifty seven years later, someone found the crash site, and a few years after that, the military matched the DNA to Bird.

“To have lost someone and then to have found them again, it filled that hole that had always been there,” Armstrong said. “He had always been a shadow, and we felt that, all of us.”

Bird was brought home in September of this year, and he was properly buried along with his family. But that's not where the story ends.

On the day of the funeral, a Pleasant Grove woman found a box of letters and photographs from Bird to his mother. The woman almost threw them away, until she saw the story in the newspaper.

“It just couldn't be simply a coincidence, because had she found them two or three days before,” Snyder said. “They had been in the garbage, and gone, or two or three days after, the garbage also would have been gone. But she found them at the right time, saw the story at the right time, and put it together before the garbage went out.”

The letters, accidentally sold at a garage sale,  show the young soldier’s bravery and insecurity.

And to see them come to light after all this years is an ending his nieces said they couldn't have written themselves.

"It was always meant to be,” Armstrong said. “I think that's why we have always been drawn to him because there wasn't going to be an ending.”