HARLINGEN, Texas (ValleyCentral) — The twenty-four notes of Taps signal the end of the day. They are a call to remember and honor those who gave their lives in service to their country. Harlingen native Porter Pile was twenty-four years old when he made the ultimate sacrifice.
The Harlingen Chamber of Commerce held a ceremony last week honoring all local veterans, including Second Lieutenant Porter Pile. Harlingen resident Randy Fleuriet, Pile’s nephew, said Pile was reported missing on September 27, 1944.
President and CEO for the Harlingen Chamber of Commerce Javier De Leon said he’s known Fleuriet and his wife for many years, and encouraged them to share Pile’s story. De Leon said after some preliminary conversations, they decided to move forward with sharing that story during the veteran’s event.
“That led to having something formal, and some formal closure, and appreciating the sacrifices that he made for us here in the United States,” De Leon said.
Pile was serving as a navigator aboard a Liberator Bomber when his plane was shot down over Germany during World War II.
Government documents show survivors aboard Pile’s plane reported they didn’t know what had happened to him, and German officials never reported him as a prisoner of war.
Since that time, it was unknown what became of him. One year and a day after Pile was lost, the War Department officially issued a finding of death. But last year, things changed.
The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced Pile had been accounted for. Pile’s remains had been identified seventy-seven years to the day after the War Department had issued its finding of death.
A positive identification came from DNA samples provided by surviving family members.
“I had given a DNA sample, as had my cousins, they did the DNA analysis, as well as dental records, and made a positive identification,” Fleuriet said.
Fleuriet said he had a particular story to tell, but the event held at the Chamber of Commerce was meant to honor all veterans.
Chamber President De Leon said he was impressed by the turnout to the ceremony.
“You had federal officials. You had state officials. You had local officials. And you had community leaders, and you just had community, and our veterans, and that was powerful because it was a diversified group,” De Leon said. “And it tells you one thing, it says that we’re all coming together to tell the story of how we continue to make America great.”
Fleuriet said it was important to him that a commemoration of Pile was held in Harlingen, where his uncle was born and raised.
Fleuriet said, “Porter’s parents, my grandparents, never had closure, they never knew exactly what happened to him, he was found and identified, and now this is the final closure, in his hometown Harlingen.”
Second Lieutenant Porter Pile was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery on October 31.