GARDNER, Mass. — A military secret for years, once the family of a Gardner World War II hero learned the circumstances of his death, they wanted to share his story. A relative of that World War II hero testified on Beacon Hill, asking lawmakers for a special memorial in his uncle's honor.
There were stories but James Kraskouskas never met his uncle Larry, a World War II hero who died in 1943 after his ship attacked by an enemy at sea. His remains were never found.
Without them for 15 years, his mother never gave up hope.
"She would walk to the train station, watch the people get off the train believing that one day he would get off," Kraskouskas said.
Turns out, Cpl. Lawrence Lukasevicius was part of one of the worst tragedies in U.S. military history. The HMT Rohna was part of a fleet decimated by an advanced guided German missile that resulted in over 1,000 servicemen being killed.
"The Rohna's disaster was declared Top Secret by the war department and the men that were survivors of the Rohna were sworn to secrecy," Kraskouskas said.
Lukasevicius' family originally received a letter in mid-May 1944, explaining that Lawrence was dead after being reported missing in action in November 1943.
Decades later, circumstances were revealed in a multi-page document from the Department of Defense that detailed what happened the day that Lukasevicius and his fellow servicemen were killed.
"Larry's parents and siblings all went to their graves waiting for Larry to return," he said.
Kraskouskas testified on behalf of a bill to rename a bridge in town for his uncle.
"I [hope you] vote positively [on this bill,]" he said, getting choked up. "Thank you."
The Pleasant Street Bridge is small and has fallen into disrepair, which is the reason Kraskouskas says it’s being replaced. For his family it's imperative that when the new bridge comes, a new name comes memorializing his uncle's sacrifice.
"We don't want people to forget how horrible it is in war to have a missing in action person, to have no closure," he said.
© 2020 Cox Media Group