Homecoming for a Hero in Scranton

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SCRANTON, Pa. --  Willard "Bud" Jenkins enlisted in the Army midway through World War II, and died in combat in the Netherlands, during a battle that was commemorated in the 1977 movie, "A Bridge Too Far."

The Army could not identify Jenkins' remains for seven decades and listed him as missing and presumed dead until a breakthrough this summer.

Edna Jenkins first thought of her big brother Bud as a hero when he was a teenager, she and her twin sister were toddlers.

Every Friday, the Jenkins twins would meet Bud at a nearby corner store.

"And he'd buy us something and put one of us on each shoulder and walk us up that hill," said Jenkins.

When Edna was 8, Bud enlisted in the Army to fight in World War II.

In 1944, Pvt. Bud Willard of the 82nd Airborne steered a small boat across the Waal River in the Netherlands during a bloody battle and was shot in the chest and fell overboard.

"The enemy controlled the area where his body was lost. So they were not able to recover his body," said Sgt. Norman Green.

Army Sgt. Norman Green is helping bring back Pvt. Jenkins' remains home from the Netherlands, where the Scranton native had been buried but not identified.

Green said the Army was able to identify bud Jenkins this summer, through a DNA match from Edna.

"It brings closure to the family, and we can also give our fellow service members the dignified honors that they deserve," said Sgt. Green.

Bud Jenkins will be buried at a family plot in a cemetery near Clarks Summit. He'll be buried next to his mother, who died in 1950 still believing her son was alive.

"To her dying day, she said, 'He's in a vets hospital somewhere, He's badly injured and he doesn't want anybody to see him," said Jenkins.

For Edna Jenkins, the discovery is bittersweet.

Several nieces and nephews from around the country are coming to Scranton to see her brother's long-overdue farewell but Edna is the only one of 10 Jenkins children who lived long enough.

"Boy, I wish some of my family was still here, besides me. Because there were 10 kids," said Jenkins. "And I wish my mother was here."

The remains of Pvt. Willard "Bud" Jenkins is set to arrive in Scranton Thursday night.

The Army is planning a special memorial service to honor his service and sacrifice next week.

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