Ray Duckler: For a veteran, finally, a resting place
Told a “shred” of evidence was found recently verifying her father had served in the military, Joyce Rankin said Maurice Armand Soucy’s remains will be moved from Rankin’s living room to the National Memorial Cemetery, near Phoenix.
Rankin’s effort to provide her father, a former Manchester mill worker, with a proper burial was featured in the Monitor earlier this month. Records had been burned and stolen, but Rankin said yesterday that the United States Department of Affairs has told her Soucy’s name and enlistment date into the Army – Oct. 19, 1948 – had been confirmed.
“That’s all the information they had on him,” Rankin said. “They didn’t know when he got out, they didn’t know if he’d gotten any honors and stuff like that, but I was ecstatic.”
Rankin’s story had been told by a local TV station in Phoenix, where she lives with her family and where her father eventually retired.
Air Force Master Sgt. Robert Johnson of Phoenix saw the report and began digging for information. He learned that Soucy’s records had been burned in a huge fire 40 years ago at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, where nearly 50 years of paperwork documenting military discharges were destroyed.
Complicating matters, Soucy’s DD214 discharge papers had been taken from Rankin’s home during a burglary several years ago, leaving Rankin with her father’s cremated remains, stored in a small box for the past seven years, on a shelf near family photos.
Without any paperwork, Rankin was told a military burial for her father was not possible.
But during his senior years, Johnson, 77, has made a career of chasing down medals and recognition for servicemen he says were never acknowledged after fighting in places like the Philippines during World War II.
Sparked by Johnson’s passion, Rankin worked with him to find proof that Soucy had served in the military so he could be properly laid to rest.
They left messages and waited on hold, calling Sen. John McCain, the National Memorial Cemetery in Phoenix, the National Personnel Record Center in St. Louis, media outlets – both here and in Arizona – and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
That final organization finally came forward, telling Rankin what she’s been waiting to hear since 2006.
“They told me when the fire had happened, they went through and picked up bits and pieces of papers,” Rankin said. “They told me they saved every bit that they could save, and they were able to find his name.”
It’s not clear why the Department of Veterans Affairs recently chose to look deeper to find records on Soucy. Rankin wasn’t sure if phone calls or media coverage brought the truth to the surface.
Whatever pried the information loose, the National Memorial Cemetery in Phoenix called Rankin to tell her Soucy’s military burial will be held Feb. 21. She plans on decorating his grave with seven little American flags, one for each year his remains sat on her shelf.
“I’ll miss him, not having him in my living room anymore,” Rankin said. “But it’s finally a happy ending. Dad can finally be laid to rest where he belongs.”