“Private Lawrence Park Burkett was laid to rest next to his wife Dora [on] Saturday, 63 years after his death on a German battlefield, and 17 years after she died without knowing his fate,” wrote Jerry Sena for The Mountain Times on June 21, 2007.
Burkett was born in Jefferson, NC, in February 1916. A carpenter who often traveled for work, he married his wife Dora on October 22, 1933. Together they had three children: Gladys, Mary and Billy Lawrence.
In April 1944, Burkett was drafted into the U.S. Army, where he fought with Company A of the 357th Infantry Regiment of the 90th Infantry Division. While his two girls were old enough to remember their father, Billy was only five days old when his father returned to service after a furlough granted for his birth.
While away, Burkett wrote letters home, including several to his infant son. In one, he wrote, “I don’t know how to write to my son, this being my first letter to my boy. I would like to be at home with you all, but I can’t just now. You must be a good boy while I am gone so mother won’t have so much to do. Of course you will be a big boy when I get home, I guess, but we will have some good times then.”
By December 11, 1944, Burkett and his company had been engaged in several days of heavy fighting along the Saar River near the French-German border. According to an article in the Winston-Salem Journal, a soldier from Independence, VA, saw Lawrence get shot. But he was one of thirty U.S. soldiers whose bodies remained missing after this battle.
The family wrote several letters to the Army seeking more information, but on December 10, 1951, they were notified that all efforts to recover Private Burkett’s remains had failed. They received no more information until they were contacted by an Army historian in 2007 and learned that members of two German non-profit organizations had discovered bones and dog tags while searching for the remains of missing soldiers. Subsequent DNA testing confirmed that the remains were those of Mr. Burkett, and—after more than a half century—Lawrence Burkett finally came home.