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Woman finally learns what happened to cousin killed in World War II

By Ari Hait

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    BOYNTON BEACH, Florida (WPBF) — The body of a soldier who was killed in action nearly 80 years ago is coming to Palm Beach County to finally be laid to rest.

Roy Searle’s cousin, Betty Rhodes, lives in Boynton Beach.

“Roy died two years before I was born,” Rhodes said.

Rhodes recently received a book from the Department of Defense detailing what happened to Searle and how they eventually were able to locate and identify his remains.

“Roy was just another soldier of many, many soldiers in the small community that we lived in that went to war,” Rhodes said. “And unfortunately, Roy was one of those that didn’t come back.”

According to the military, Searles was killed in 1944 while fighting in World War II in Germany, just over the French border.

At the time, officials could confirm his death but could not say what happened to his body.

The book provided to Rhodes contains multiple letters from family members begging the government for information.

“I am his father and request information with respect to his burial place,” one letter read.

Another was written by a close family friend on behalf of Searle’s mother.

“Now, won’t you please help this heartbroken mother and relieve her suffering,” it said.

Years later, in 1951, the military wrote back, saying Searles was lost forever.

“It has been necessary to declare that his remains are not recoverable,” the letter read.

However, in 2021, the Department of Defense exhumed remains from an American military cemetery in France.

Those remains had originally been buried in a civilian cemetery in Germany.

Using DNA, they tested teeth and skeletons while also consulting soldiers’ health records from decades ago.

In 2022, they found a match.

They announced they had found PFC. Roy Searle.

That’s when Rhodes got the call.

“I couldn’t believe it, actually,” Rhodes said. “And I was so sad to think that his mother, after all she’d gone through, didn’t live long enough to know about it,”

In fact, Rhodes is the only relative of Searle the military could find.

And she has arranged for her cousin to be buried at the South Florida National Cemetery on Sept. 13 at 10 a.m.

The funeral is open to the public.

Nearly 80 years after his death, Searle will finally be laid to rest.

“I think it’s important for me. I think it’s important to everyone,” Rhodes said. “If we send people to war, we have to know what happens to them.”

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