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After 72 years, a WWII fighter pilot's remains are returned home to his family

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72 years later, the remains of a World War II fighter pilot are finally home and in a way Wednesday's Delta Airlines flight into Seattle-Tacoma International Airport was 1st Lieutenant William Gray's final flight.

After 72 years a fighter pilot from WWII is returned home

Lt. Gray crashed in Germany during a combat mission in April of 1945, and it's taken the Army decades to track down his remains. The scene of Gray's arrival into the Seattle airport was filled with Gray's family, soldiers, and police officers. Soldiers retrieved his flag-draped casket, and turned it over to an Honor Guard whose every move was imbued with dignity, and respect. There was a solemn intensity to the ceremony as the military in its own way embraced this man back home.

Police officers gathered at the arrival of 1st Lieutenant William Gray at Sea-tac Airport

"Having read his letters, you get to know a person who cared deeply for his family," Gray's niece, Jan Bradshaw said. Though Gray's niece is too young to know the Army Air Corpsman, she claimed she learned so much from the letters he sent home during the war.

"He loved to fly more than anything," Jan said. The family is grateful that the Army never gave up the search - given his sacrifice for America. "It reminds us that Bill and other airmen like him were really heroes," family member Tom Bradshaw said. "We thank God that he's back, and we thank the Army for doing a tremendous job," Jan said.

Here, Lt. William Gray's casket is carefully brought out of the airplane

A funeral service is set for Friday. Lt. Gray will be buried alongside his best friend, the man who he enlisted with at the start of the war.

Affiliate KOMO contributed to this story.

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