TAMPA, Fla. - The remains of a long-lost Tampa veteran are coming home today. Airman Isaac Anderson Sr., who died in a plane crash back in 1952, will be escorted from Tampa International Airport to his final resting place.
Anderson was aboard a military C-124 cargo plane that crashed into Alaska’s Mount Gannett on November 22, 1952. All 52 people aboard were killed, and their remains were lost due to the Alaskan climate until 2012, when the site was rediscovered.
Since then, experts have been working to identify each of the victims' remains. Now, Anderson’s family joined the honor guard and other families as remains were returned to Tampa.
"I looked forward to seeing him one day. It took a long time," Airman Anderson's son, Isaac Anderson said.
For 20 years, Anderson's granddaughter, Tonja Anderson Dell has worked tirelessly to find the lost soldiers who perished in the crash.
"He called me to tell me my grandfather had been identified, and for me, it was like a wonderful Christmas slash birthday gift to find out he was coming home," granddaughter Tonja Anderson Dell said as she stood on the tarmac at Tampa International Airport.
Standing by other families’ sides as they welcomed their loved ones home, she patiently waited to experience that day for herself.
"From 1999 to 2019, I've been waiting that long for this day, for this moment," she said.
Dell and her father were at a loss for words.
"It's a lot to consume right now. I'm just glad he's home," Tonja said.
Wearing white gloves, soldiers pulled the flag-draped casket in front of a military crowd fit for a hero.
"You get that phone call, but until he comes through, it's not real. It became real at that moment, at that moment it became real, that he was actually home."
Airman Anderson, Sr. has been welcomed home after 66 years; a man who was willing to risk it all for a country he loved so much.
"He did what he needed to do, and he gave his life for his country."
His remains were transported to his final resting place at the Garden of Memories Cemetery in east Tampa.