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72 years later, WWII fighter pilot's remains return home

In some ways, Wednesday's Delta Airlines flight into Sea-Tac Airport was 1st Lieutenant William Gray's final flight. First responders lined up alongside Gray's loved ones to welcome him back. (KOMO photo)

SEA-TAC, Wash. -- The remains of a World War II fighter pilot are finally home.

In some ways, Wednesday's Delta Airlines flight into Seattle-Tacoma International Airport was 1st Lieutenant William Gray's final flight.

Lt. Gray crashed in Germany during a combat mission in April of 1945, and it's taken the Army decades to track down his remains.

It was a special moment as the parking lot was filled with soldiers, police officers, and Gray's family.

Soldiers retrieved his flag-draped casket, and turned it over to an Honor Guard whose every move was imbued with dignity, and respect.

There was a solemn intensity to the ceremony as the military in its own way embraced this man back home.

"Having read his letters, you get to know a person who cared deeply for his family," Gray's niece, Jan Bradshaw said.

Gray's niece is too young to know the Army Air Corpsman, but learned much from the letters he sent home during the war.

"He loved to fly more than anything," Jan said.

The family is grateful that the Army never gave up the search - given his sacrifice for America.

"It reminds us that Bill and other airmen like him were really heroes," family member Tom Bradshaw said.

"We thank God that he's back, and we thank the Army for doing a tremendous job," Jan said.

A funeral service is set for Friday. Lt. Gray will be buried alongside his best friend, the man who he enlisted with at the start of the war.

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