Altoona veteran killed in World War II returns home

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Nicholas Cancilla, a local marine who was killed in action during World War Two, made his final journey Saturday night.
 
He’s coming home after his remains were discovered decades after his death.
 
“It’s always an honor to bring a hero back home,” said Staff Sergeant Megmet Bayar. 
 
Sergeant Bayar has brought soldiers home before, but this time is special. 
 
“I was privileged to be the one to do it,” he said. 
 
This journey is much different.
 
“We always, as a Marine Corp, take pride in leaving no one behind.”
 
Nicholas Cancilla landed on the small island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll of the Gilbert Island with his Marine division in November, 1943. The Battle of Tarawa lasted several days. About one-thousand marines and sailors died over those days. 
 
Cancilla was killed on the first day of battle at just 18 years old. 73 years later, he’s coming home.
 
“”It’s definitely unique to bring somebody home after this long and this is what they deserve,” said Sergeant Bayar.
 
Cancilla’s remains were found in Betio. He was identified through dental records and mitochondrial DNA.
Sergeant  Bayar joined Cancilla’s journey home in Hawaii.
 
“To finally bring him home brings us closure as a Marine Corp family and I’m sure it brings closure to his family.”
 
The Patriot Guard Riders helped usher Cancilla back to Altoona from Pittsburgh. For them, bringing a hero home after all this time was an honor. 
 
“I was just really honored to be part of that. It gave me a good feeling coming back knowing that he’s traveling American roads again and hopefully coming past some stuff he’s passed in his youth,” explained Patriot Guard Ride Steve Socie. 
 
On Monday, there’s a funeral mass at Our Lady Mt. Carmel Catholic Church at 10:30. Then there will be a funeral procession to Calvary Cemetery afterwards with full military honors.

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