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With help from LI relative, long-lost soldier's body comes home

Lee Brancti, 89, a cousin of Sgt. John Simonetti

Lee Brancti, 89, a cousin of Sgt. John Simonetti and the last living family member who remembers him, listens during the service. (Oct. 24, 2010) Credit: Jay Paul

In 1994, Quogue resident Fred Salerno visited the site of an old battlefield in France, scrawled his uncle's name on the back of a business card, and gave it to a French farmer. 

In doing so, the Quogue resident harbored faint hope that he might one day learn what had happened to the long-dead World War II GI he knew from family lore as "Uncle Johnny," whose body was never found after he disappeared near the Normandy coast.

Then, last year, a construction project near the battlefield unearthed the bones of an American soldier, and a pair of battered dog tags. Someone in the village remembered the business card.

Monday, borne home by the empathy of French villagers, the dedication of a Virginia motorcyclist and the perseverance of Simonetti's family, the once-lost soldier will be laid to rest with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.

>> Read Martin C. Evans' full story


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