Pearl Harbor victim from Massachusetts laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery

Seaman 1st Class Frank Hryniewicz, hailing from Three Rivers, Massachusetts, tragically lost his life during the infamous attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Aboard the USS Oklahoma, he was one of the 429 U.S. service members who perished that day. At the tender age of 20, Hryniewicz had eagerly enlisted in the Navy less than two years prior, driven by his desire to explore the world. After more than 80 years, his remains were finally laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery earlier this month.

The Hryniewicz family held onto the letter penned by his older brother for years, which was written after the attack. In the letter, his brother urged Hryniewicz to stay in touch and shared the news of becoming an uncle. As the youngest of five siblings, Hryniewicz was known for his charm and popularity with the ladies. His nieces and nephews grew up listening to tales of his Navy escapades.

“Darn your hide! Why haven’t you written to us? Last Sunday, we received news that the Oklahoma had been sunk at Pearl Harbor. Ever since then, we’ve been anxiously waiting to hear from you or the Navy Department… P.S. Just so you know, you became an uncle last Thursday at 8:30 A.M.,” his older brother expressed with concern and excitement.

Inspired by the stories of her uncle’s sacrifice, Joie Hallstrom, Frank’s niece, decided to follow in his footsteps and join the U.S. Navy. She felt a strong sense of unfinished business within her family, considering her uncle’s life had been tragically cut short.

“I felt a profound impact on my decision to join the Navy due to his presence in our family. It was as if there was some unfinished business that needed closure,” Hallstrom expressed.

On a beautiful May afternoon, the Hryniewicz family, consisting of 10 members, gathered at Arlington National Cemetery to pay tribute to their beloved Uncle Frank. This reunion marked a significant moment as it was the first time in many years that the family had come together. The Navy bestowed upon Uncle Frank the highest honor by granting him a solemn military ceremony.

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Frances Griffin, 81, was filled with overwhelming emotion as she reflected on being named after her beloved uncle.

“It’s something I’ve been aware of for a long time. It’s deeply ingrained in my life and has become a part of our family’s history. So, when I found out, it completely took me by surprise and I couldn’t help but burst into tears,” expressed Griffin emotionally.

Memorial Day is a significant holiday in the United States that holds deep meaning and importance for the nation. It is a day dedicated to honoring and remembering the brave men and women who have sacrificed their lives while serving in the military.

This somber holiday originated after the American Civil War in the late 1860s and was initially known as Decoration Day. The day was set aside for the purpose of decorating the graves of fallen soldiers with flowers, flags, and other meaningful tributes.

In 1971, Memorial Day was officially declared a federal holiday, observed on the last Monday in May each year. This three-day weekend allows people to come together and pay their respects to the fallen heroes, as well as spend quality time with loved ones.

Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries and memorials, where they place flowers or flags on the graves of soldiers. Parades and ceremonies are also held across the country, with patriotic displays and tributes to honor the fallen.

It is worth noting that Memorial Day should not be confused with Veterans Day. While both holidays celebrate the bravery and sacrifice of military personnel, Memorial Day specifically commemorates those who have died in service to their country, whereas Veterans Day honors all veterans, both living and deceased.

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As Memorial Day approaches, it is important to take a moment to reflect on the true meaning of this solemn holiday. It is a time to honor the memory of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice and express gratitude for the freedoms we enjoy today.

Eight days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Frank received a letter from his older brother, bringing the news that he had become an uncle. (Source: Hryniewicz Family)

After her older brother was born, it was Griffin’s father who wrote a letter to her Uncle Frank. Unfortunately, he passed away three days before Hryniewicz’s remains were finally identified.

Griffin expressed a sense of conflict regarding his father’s emotions. He believed that his dad would experience both happiness and sadness. On one hand, his dad would be pleased that Uncle Frank found solace in his current situation. On the other hand, his dad would feel a deep sadness for all the experiences and moments in life that Uncle Frank had missed.

American World War II heroes have been honored and remembered through the “Faces of Margraten” project by the grateful Dutch people.

The USS Oklahoma remained overturned until 1944, when efforts were made to recover the bodies of the sailors. At first, only 35 of the sailors were able to be identified. From the National Memorial Cemetery in Honolulu, 61 caskets and 45 graves were exhumed. Notably, one casket held the partial remains of 100 sailors.

Frances Griffin, the niece of Frank Hryniewicz, was presented with a flag by Rear Adm. Scott Pappano during the burial ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery on May 16, 2024.

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The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency has been diligently working since 2015 to reconstruct the remains of the individuals who were lost on the USS Oklahoma. According to Carrie LeGarde, the project lead for the USS Oklahoma Identification Project, her team has successfully identified 362 of the missing service members from the Oklahoma, which accounts for an impressive 92%.

LeGarde emphasized the importance of dedicating ample time and resources to the project in order to achieve the desired level of success.

“We had the privilege of offering solace to numerous family members, and it is truly gratifying. Witnessing the culmination of this project, where the fallen heroes are brought back home or laid to rest in national cemeteries, provides a profound sense of closure for these families, evoking a mix of emotions.”

The Hryniewicz family was relieved to see their beloved uncle finally receive a dignified burial.

“I feel an overwhelming sense of relief. He’s finally home. We brought him back. And I firmly believe that we owe it to our veterans, both past and present, to take care of these individuals who have risked their lives for our sake,” Hallstrom expressed with deep conviction.

Hallstrom felt deeply touched by the fact that her uncle would finally have the opportunity to be reunited with his fellow shipmates.

“He being here is important to me because it ensures that he will never be forgotten. This serves as a permanent tribute to him. It’s incredible to know that anyone can visit and see where he is, surrounded by his fellow shipmates. It gives me chills to think that he is now reunited with the people who meant the world to him during his time of service,” Hallstrom expressed.

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