Elwood veteran finally home after 1952 plane crash

It was an emotional yet joyful homecoming for Airman Howard Martin. Martin, along with 51 other servicemen, disappeared in Alaska 62 years ago. To the joy of his siblings and his hometown of Elwood, Martin is finally back home.

The young airman couldn't have imagined a welcome home anything like Thursday's homecoming. The motorcade surrounding the hearse drove slowly past hundreds of people lining the streets.

"It's really big because he never got to come home," Linda Haulk said. "They were told they would never recover his body."

She is a distant and loving cousin of Martin. "They have a marker in the cemetery. He is not there," she explained.

The 21-year-old Martin was buried beneath an Alaskan glacier. His Air Force transport crashed in 1952 and wasn't found until recently.

Recovery teams identified personal items and the remains of 17 servicemen. Martin's remains were positively identified on his 83rd birthday.

Thursday, the Air Force finally brought him home to his six brothers and sisters. Five of them were at the airport as airmen carried Martin's flag-covered casket from the plane to the hearse.

"Right now I am on cloud one. I'm happy. I am rejoicing," Paul Martin said with a smile. He was 19 when his older brother was declared dead. "You miss them a lot at first, every day for a year, two years," he explained in a soft voice. "And then you have dreams about a reunion."

The ride to Elwood must have felt like a dream reunion. It was celebrated and commemorated by scores of veterans escorting the family and Martin's remains. The procession stretched more than a mile.

Elwood Mayor Ron Arnold declared today as "A3C Howard Martin Remembrance Day" in the City of Elwood.

Hundreds of flag-waving people lining Elwood's main street, and heartfelt reception, hugs, handshakes, and kind words, surprised the siblings. Sister Kay Marling said, "It's like Independence day. A grateful day."

Linda Haulk watched and took it all in. "Elwood, they care about their own, they really do," she said. "Everybody comes back home."

Elwood calls itself the heart of Hoosierland. It is a community with a big heart, a heart that didn't forget.

The funeral is scheduled for Saturday at the Copher-Fesler-May Funeral Home. Visitation will be at 11:00 am, with the funeral to follow at 1:00 pm.