CANEY, Kan. -

It's a service for a hero. A Kansas soldier who died serving his country. A homecoming this community thought may never come.

Private Leonard Kittle was serving in the US Army when the C-124 Globemaster plane he and more than 50 others were on crashed in Alaska in November of 1952.

"It was devastating to the family," said Leon Erne, Kittle's nephew. "The plane just basically disappeared, they didn't know where it was at all. I just disappeared."
Shortly after the plane was lost, Kittle's family was told to buy a plot of land in the cemetary, the military would then buy an army headstone to place there with Private Kittle's name on it. But there was still no hard evidence he was gone.

"They tried many times, but in Alaska with the snow and ice it's really difficult terrain," said Erne. "I guess they finally found the tail of the plane, then sent a team up to search it out and they found the plane."

Alaska National Guard found the wreckage in 2012. It took two years for DNA specialists to identify 17 of the military personnel on board. Kittle was one of them.

"When the call came that they had identified his remains it was a shock," said Sandra Kozak, Kittle's wife. "You just don't dare get your hopes up that high. We just never thought this would happen because we were told there was nothing."

Hundreds attended Kittle's funeral on Saturday at Sunnyside Cemetary in Caney, KS, where Kittle grew up.

"Everybody has welcomed us so much," said Linda Erickson, Kittle's daughter. Kittle only got to spend a few weeks with her after she was born, before he returned to duty. He was killed shortly after that.

"I was only a month old, I just remember stories," said Erickson. "He like motorcycles and fast cars, he was very athletic. I myself think he was just full of life."
This funeral helped bring closure to the family, but also to the community of Caney.

"This community lost one of its soldiers back in 1952," said Dale McBride, a friend of the family. "For so many years that was unfinished business for the town. Everyone was quite upset about it and it's been a story in this community for many years. They've finally found Private Kittle and identified him. Now we've been able to see him come home."

"It's good to have him home finally, because my grandmother and grandfather they died never giving up hope that some day he would come home," said Erne. "He's home now, not the way we want it, but he's home.