SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – A ceremony was held on Wednesday honoring the memory of a U.S. Marine from Springfield, who was killed during the battle for the Island of Guadalcanal in the Pacific during World War II 75-years-ago.
The Springfield serviceman, Private First Class Francis Drake was 19-years-old when he died during the invasion of the Japanese held Island in 1944. His nephew, who is named after him, was presented with the Silver Star, the Purple Heart, and the Massachusetts Medal of Liberty.
Massachusetts Army National Guard Brigadier General, John Driscoll, made the presentation. Drake’s remains were discovered only a few years ago.
“It’s hard to even put into words really, this whole journey has been incredible, we never thought this would happen, my uncle came home,” his nephew said.
Private Francis Drake’s dog tag, received by the family when his remains arrived in Springfield a year ago, is now worn proudly by his nephew.
PFC Drake was buried in a field grave and his remains were deemed unrecoverable by the Marine Corps in 1949. His name is permanently inscribed on the Wall of the Missing at the Manila American Cemetery Taguig City, Philippines.
Remains of an American service member were discovered in 2011 by a resident of Guadalcanal while digging a foundation for the expansion of his home. The remains were positively identified as PFC Drake in 2017. PFC Drake’s remains are now in the Massachusetts Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Agawam since May 25, 2018.
“The Commonwealth will forever be indebted to Private Drake for his bravery and willingness to pay the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedom. When we honor the brave service members who answered their country’s call, never to return, we must also honor the loved ones left behind. The Medal of Liberty is just one way of recognizing that they, too, made a great sacrifice to the cause of liberty across the world.”Governor Charlie Baker
“I am thankful to Mayor Sarno and Brigadier General John Driscoll, Assistant Adjutant General and the Land Component Commander of the Massachusetts National Guard for honoring the life, service, and sacrifice of PVT Francis Drake, USMC with the awarding of the Massachusetts Medal of Liberty. PVT Drake served his country honorably. I was pleased to be in attendance with those commemorating his life when his remains were brought home more than 75 years after his passing last spring. I am hopeful that his family will accept this token as a reminder of PVT Drake’s distinguished duty to our country. Thank you from the Untied States of America,”Congressman Richard E. Neal
“Seventy-seven years ago, lest we forget and always remember the ultimate sacrifice PFC Francis E. Drake, USMC made in defense of freedom. Dread the thought, that without brave and dedicated veterans like PFC Drake, what our world would have been. PFC Drake and our veterans changed the face of our world for the better. May God rest his soul and Godspeed to all our military personnel.”Mayor Domenic J. Sarno
“It’s a privilege and our solemn honor to recognize the sacrifice of Private Drake with the Medal of Liberty. With this medal presentation we affirm to the Drake family their loved one will always be remembered.”Maj. Gen. Gary Keefe, The Adjutant General, Massachusetts National Guard