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Remains of Decorated WWII Veteran Finally Identified and to be Laid To Rest in Chillicothe

Ward Raymond Thomas, a decorated WWII Army veteran, disappeared from the Chillicothe VA hospital in 1972.

Special to the Scioto Post

Chillicothe & the island of Saipan in the Pacific Ocean — A decorated WWII veteran who disappeared after he walked away from the Chillicothe VA hospital in 1972 will finally be laid to rest in Chillicothe, after his remains found in 1996 were genetically identified.

From Wednesday’s news release by the Ross County Coroner:

The Ross County Coroner, Dr. Benjamin Trotter, is pleased to announce that the identity of a cold case from 1996 was recently made.

In 1996 human remains were found on a sand bar in the Scioto River behind Chillicothe Correctional Institute by CCI workers. Every investigative tool of the time was used but the individual was not identified.

In early 2022 the case was reopened, and the remains were sent for DNA testing. The DNA identified the individual as a male, confirming what was discovered in 1996, but unfortunately no DNA match was identified.

With the help of the DNA Doe Project and a new modern investigative tool called Investigative Genetic Genealogy, the individual was positively identified as Ward Raymond Thomas, born in Muskingum County on September 5, 1918. The identity was confirmed by using family comparison mitochondrial DNA.

Mr. Thomas was a patient at the Chillicothe VA Medical Center when he was reported missing on May 6, 1972; according to all records, search efforts by the VA, local authorities and his family were extensive but unsuccessful. Mr. Thomas was declared deceased on June 10, 1977 by the probate court of Licking County, where he and his wife resided. Mr. Thomas is survived by nieces and nephews, who we are in contact with. The family wishes to remain private at this time.

Soldiers’ Square and Columbaria in Greenlawn Cemetery in Chillicothe

In additional news that has been released to the Scioto Post, arrangements have been made to lay his remains to rest locally.

Retired Army Ranger Lt. Col. Robert Leach is a Ross County Veterans Commissioner, as well as a member of various local veterans organizations, coordinator of veterans events, and presenter and author of local military history. Through the efforts of Leach and Johna Pulver of the Ross County Veteran’s Office, a ceremony for Thomas will be at 1pm April 15th, 2024, at the Columbarium in Greenlawn Cemetery at Eastern Avenue and Watt Streets in Chillicothe.

In addition, they explain that Ward Raymond Thomas was a decorated Army veteran with a Purple Heart, a WWII Victory medal, an Asiatic Pacific theater ribbon with five bronze stars, a Philippine Liberation Medal with one one bronze star, and a Good Conduct medal.

The ceremony is set for the anniversary of the date when Thomas’ unit landed for invasion.

Thomas was injured in Saipan on January 15th, 1945, and hospitalized. Saipan is an island in the Mariana archipelago, “the largest island and capital of the Northern Mariana Islands, a commonwealth of the United States in the western Pacific Ocean” according to Wikipedia.

Learn more details in the follow-up story, and watch for further details.

News release by the Ross County Coroner on the identification of the remains of Ward Raymond Thomas, March 13, 2024.


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