Private First Class William Henry Hogan no longer lies in an unmarked grave.
Thanks to Hogan’s hero — Congressmember Bob Turner, who took the reins in hunting down lost records of the World War I veteran — the family is now at peace.
“It became an emotional thing,” said grandson Michael Hogan of Glendale. “Here is a World War I veteran buried in an unmarked grave with no recognition. That shouldn’t happen to anybody that serves.”
Before his father, William John — also a war vet — died in 1987, Michael inherited the desire to track down and confirm his grandfather’s military history.
“Right before my dad died, we were talking about how there was no marker on my grandfather’s gravesite in New Hampshire. My dad said, ‘We need to fix that.’”
But the military records were lost, and Michael said his attempts to unearth the documents were unsuccessful.
“I thought this would never come to. I pretty much had written it off,” he said.
First, Michael said he contacted the Department of Veterans Affairs National Personnel Records Center (VA). He said they informed him that a fire in 1973 at a St. Louis storage facility destroyed 80 percent of all records and that they could not find anything on his grandfather.
He then contacted the VA Hospital in the Bronx where his grandfather resided upon his passing. The hospital told him that those records would be in storage “somewhere in New Jersey.”
Finally, Michael called Turner, who dug up the records. Turner then contacted the VA to confirm Michael’s grandfather’s service and secured him a military headstone. Michael discovered his grandfather had in fact served in France around 1917.
“When Congressmember Turner personally broke the news to me, I got all choked up. It was a very emotional moment for me,” Michael said. “It was a moment of happiness, joy and tears because I thought this would not come about — especially when I was told by the National Public Records that they couldn’t find anything. I knew my grandfather would finally be getting recognition.”
The icing on the cake, Michael said, was that his and his father’s birthday had just passed.
“Congressmember Turner gave us both a great birthday gift,” Michael said.
Right around the holidays, Turner presented Michael with a folded American flag from the VA — usually given to families of deceased service members at military funerals — and a certificate of honor for his late grandfather.
“William Hogan deserves proper acknowledgement for his service to our country,” Turner said. “Michael’s commitment to his grandfather is a testament to all veterans that their service will never be forgotten.”
The new and officially acquired military headstone was installed at St. Joseph Cemetery in Bedford, New Hampshire at the end of December — granting the long-time wish of three generations of Hogans.
“I didn’t know my grandfather because he died before I was born,” Michael said. “It brought him to life for me. That was the gratification — it brought him closer to me. Right now, my father and grandfather are both probably looking down at me smiling.”