AUGUSTA — A Gardiner man who died in World War II, but whose remains were not returned to Maine until recently, received a full military burial at the Maine Veterans’ Memorial Cemetery in Augusta Friday afternoon.

Among the 75 or so people who attended the belated burial for Army Pvt. Albert Walter Wiley was his daughter, 86-year-old Arden Clement of Augusta, and members of American Legion Post 4 in Gardiner, also called Smith-Wiley Post.

“He’s finally come back,” said Clement after the burial ceremony, which included a color guard, a rifle volley and remarks by several veterans.

Clement, who barely knew her father, was presented with several tokens at the ceremony.

She was first handed an urn containing the ashes of Wiley, a private who died of heat exhaustion while stationed in India in 1942.

But Wiley was unmarried when he left for war and did not know his daughter well. In 1949, when no one claimed Wiley’s remains back home, they were brought to a veterans cemetery in Hawaii.

Only in the last five years did Roger Paradis, a historian with Smith-Wiley Post, begin researching the background of the veteran who gave the group one half of its name. Earlier this summer, the group spent $3,665 of its own money to have Wiley’s remains unburied, cremated and shipped to Gardiner in an urn.

Wiley was the first Gardiner soldier to die in World War II, according to Paradis’ research.

After Paradis handed Clement the urn at the burial ceremony Friday, she passed it back.

Later in the ceremony, two members of a military color guard unfolded and refolded an American flag, before handing the flag to Clement.

The flag was a testament to the “courageous deed of our comrade,” said Keith Estabrook, a member of the Kennebec County Veterans’ Honor Guard, a volunteer group that provides honors at the burials of Maine veterans.

“The blue field represents the sky overhead and denotes the watchfulness of god above,” continued Estabrook. “The red stripes tell of the blood, sweat and tears our comrade offered for his country at a time of war. The white stripes boldly proclaim the peace he helped to bring to this generation and to future generations.”

Members of the Kennebec County Veterans Honor Guard also fired rifles at the ceremony and presented Clement with three spent shell casings as proof of the military honors.

Once the ceremony was completed, cemetery staff stored the urn containing Wiley’s ashes in a columbarium on the cemetery grounds.

Also attending the ceremony were members of the Patriot Guard Riders, motorcyclists who brought the urn containing Wiley’s ashes from Gardiner to Augusta Friday afternoon.

Several other relatives of Wiley’s were also at the ceremony, including his grandson, Bradford Clement, who like his mother lives in the Augusta area.

“It really feels good,” he said after the ceremony. “I was really, really impressed with the turnout.”

So was Paradis, who initially set in motion the effort to bring back Wiley’s remains four-and-a-half years ago.

“It went very well,” he said. “A lot of us were very surprised how many people came.”

The Smith-Wiley Post spent its own money to bring Wiley’s ashes to Maine, in part because Clement was still alive and could not afford to do so herself, Paradis said.

But at the ceremony, she offered a check for $200 to the group, which Paradis initially refused, he said. It will go into the group’s general fund, he added.

At one point after Wiley died, Clement made a trip to his burial site in Hawaii and left flowers, she said in an interview earlier this summer.

Now that he’s much closer to home, she plans to visit more often.

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @ceichacker

 

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