HENRY COUNTY, Ga. - An American Legion in Henry County honored the first soldier to die in World War II from the county 75 years after his death Sunday.
Willie B. Hatcher, of McDonough, was killed in the line of duty on Nov. 1, 1944. The American Legion post in McDonough, Post 516, is named after him.
Channel 2's Lauren Davis was at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, where three soldiers returned from a mission to visit Hatcher's gravesite in the Philippines.
The delegation had a ceremony at the airport to honor Hatcher and then went to McDonough to continue to honors in Hatcher's hometown.
75 years later, McDonough Legion Post 516 honors Army veteran Willie Hatcher. He’s the first veteran in McDonough who lost his life in WW II. Tonight they give him a proper memorial. The story at 11 on @wsbtv pic.twitter.com/x8hKvnRmH8— Lauren Davis (@LaurenDavisWSB) October 20, 2019
Carolyn Lewis, Tyrone Ancrum and Phillip Stewart returned Sunday from Manila. It's the first time anyone from McDonough has visited Hatcher's grave.
"I can't explain what it felt like when I was there," Lewis said. "This is a day I'll never forget."
Hatcher was married with a child on the way when he was deployed to the Philippines to work as an engineer building roads. He was killed in a noncombat accident.
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"This is a part of our community. He was a native son," Stewart said. "It was just a proud moment."
The post wanted to bring Hatcher's body back to McDonough, but too much red tape prevented it. So visiting his grave was the next best thing.
The delegation had a flag-raising ceremony -- a flag they brought back to give to Hatcher's family.
After flying in to Atlanta, the delegation headed to McDonough to join members of the post along with Hatcher's family.
"All I can say is there are some awesome guys here," Patrick Hardy Sr., Hatcher's grandson, said.
A photo of Hatcher was on display in front of the sign at the post reading "Willie B. Hatcher Legion Post 516."
"I'm just so, so honored seeing as though he paved the way for us in World War II," Ancrum said.
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