SHANNONDALE — U.S. Army Pfc. Marvin E. Dickson’s life ended before it really ever had a chance to begin.
Nearly 75 years after he was killed in battle during World War II, Dickson was brought home to Indiana for a proper farewell as he was laid to rest next to his grandparents in Shannondale Cemetery with full military honors. His remains had been unidentified for decades after his comrades lost sight of him during an attack.
“Private First Class Dickson’s outstanding performance of duty in combat was in keeping with the finest of tradition of military service and reflects great credit upon himself, the 28th infantry division and the Army of the United States,” an honor guard member said during the service, as Dickson’s relatives looked on.
Dickson was born on March 31, 1925 in Marion County, the son of a mattress factory worker. Shortly after graduating from Arsenal Technical High School in 1943, the 19-year-old enlisted in the Army and was assigned to the 110th Infantry Regiment as a lineman.
On Nov. 13, 1944, an enemy shell exploded as the platoon laid utility wire near the Hürtgen Forest along the border between Belgium and Germany. Surviving soldiers didn’t know whether Dickson had been killed, he didn’t appear at the next company formations and his family couldn’t locate him through friends or military officers. He was listed missing in action.
When a year passed with no sign of him, Dickson was declared killed in action. His remains were discovered in April 1947 and buried in the Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial when they couldn’t be identified. His name was included on the cemetery’s Tablets of the Missing.
The Army posthumously awarded Dickson with a Bronze Star, Purple Heart and other military honors.
In 2017, crews from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency exhumed Dickson’s remains, which were sent to a laboratory. A distant cousin, Michael Dickson, submitted a DNA sample. Private First Class Dickson was positively identified last fall.
First cousin Carolee Cox received a call from personnel at Fort Knox.
“That was the first thing that they said: ‘He’s been identified,’” Dickson Cox said. “I was speechless, didn’t know what to say.”
So far this year, the agency has accounted for 60 military personnel previously unidentified. Some 72,000 World War II service members from the U.S. still have not been recovered, including more than 1,510 from Indiana, agency figures show.
Dickson’s flag-draped casket touched down Thursday at the Indianapolis International Airport, where family members greeted the remains. They were brought to Hunt & Son Funeral Home.
On Saturday morning, a hearse waited in the funeral home’s parking lot as members of the Crawfordsville American Legion Byron Cox Post 72 Honor Guard gathered for the procession.
Mike Wren, a retired Army chaplain, and his wife, She, stood across Grant Avenue, clutching small American flags.
“Whether anybody else comes out or not, we believe it’s a sacred privilege to give a final farewell to a true American hero,” Mike Wren said.
A convoy of motorcycles from the Patriot Guard Riders, an organization that attends military funerals, led the procession to the cemetery. A few people waited at parking lots and intersections along State Road 32 to pay their respects.
At the cemetery, Penny Murphy of Indianapolis and her husband, Bob, who served with the Army in Vietnam, watched as a military honor guard waited for the hearse.
“You just wonder… handsome young guy,” Penny Murphy said, looking at Dickson’s high school photo in a newspaper obituary. “He had his whole life ahead of him but you know, he’s a noble guy.”
Dickson’s relatives came from as far as Chicago for the service. Honor guard members presented Cox with the flag from the casket and Dickson’s Bronze Star.
“I just appreciate everything everyone has done,” Cox said after the ceremony. “It’s just been amazing.”