A Gardiner man who died in World War II, but whose remains were not brought back to Maine until recently, will soon be getting a full military burial at Maine Veterans Memorial Cemetery.

Members of American Legion Post 4 in Gardiner, also known as the Smith-Wiley Post, recently decided to spend $3,665 of the organization’s own money to cremate and bring home the remains of Albert Walter Wiley, one of their namesake service members, from a cemetery in Hawaii. Those remains arrived in Maine a few weeks ago.

At 2 p.m. Friday, a caravan of American Legion members and motorcyclists will arrive at the Maine Veterans’ Memorial Cemetery in Augusta with those remains, which spent the last century in India and Hawaii.

A group of soldiers will then conduct military honors before Wiley’s remains are buried, according to Roger Paradis, the American Legion post’s historian who has spent more than four years tracking down Wiley’s remains and figuring out how to return them to Maine.

Wiley’s daughter, 86-year-old Arden Clement of Augusta, will attend the burial and be presented with an American flag as part of the military honors, noted Paradis.

Wiley was the first Gardiner soldier to die in World War II, said Paradis, hence why his name appears on the American Legion post.

He was stationed in the Indian city of Karachi — now part of Pakistan — when he died of heat exhaustion on May 4, 1942, according to military records obtained by Paradis. He was 35 at the time, a welder by training and a private serving with the 51st Air Base Group.

“He stands in the unbroken line of patriots who have dared to die that freedom might live and grow, and increase its blessings,” President Franklin Delano Roosevelt wrote in a letter at the time, to mark Wiley’s death. “Freedom lives, and through it, he lives.”

Wiley’s remains were first buried in a British military cemetery in Karachi, then moved to an American military cemetery in another Indian city 1,400 miles away. There they stayed for a few years, records indicate, under a wooden cross and between the remains of two other U.S. soldiers, a second lieutenant and a radio technician.

The military again considered where to move Wiley’s body in 1949, according to official correspondence, but it could not be returned to Maine. Wiley was unmarried when he entered the Army, and his only next-of-kin was his daughter, Clement, who was 18 years old at the time — too young to qualify for next-of-kin rights.

So his body was moved to a veterans cemetery in Honolulu instead.

Some 65 years later, the Gardiner area veterans began researching the history of their own American Legion Post. When they learned Clement could not afford to have her father’s remains brought to Maine, they raised the funds to do so themselves.

“I’ve got about four and a half years tied into this crazy thing,” Paradis said. “Now he’s here, and we’re burying him here at the old veterans cemetery this Friday.”

Paradis expects a large caravan to leave the Smith-Wiley Post in Gardiner around 1 p.m. on Friday and arrive at the Augusta cemetery, located on Civic Center Drive, around 2 p.m. He expects the ceremony will involve a color guard, a firing squad, the presentation of a flag to Clement and the eventual burial of an urn containing Wiley’s ashes. He also encouraged members of the public to come observe the caravan and ceremony.

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @ceichacker

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