PRESTONSBURG, Ky. (KT) - The family of a World War II veteran who went missing while fighting in Germany 75 years will celebrate his life Saturday.
The remains of WW II veteran Jacob Whitney Givens arrived in Lexington on Nov. 1 and a convoy of veteran organizations, law enforcement agencies and fire departments brought him to Floyd County, where his remains will be buried Saturday.
A celebration of life is scheduled to begin at noon on Saturday at Fitzpatrick Baptist Church in Prestonsburg. Burial will follow in the McDowell Family Cemetery, Prestonsburg.
Nathan Sesco of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3769 in Pikeville, who also serves as the organization’s state judge advocate, said veterans groups will come from all over the state to be part of the motorcade that honors Givens. He and other local officials have been working to organize Givens’ return to Kentucky.
“I think there’s only been 12 to 13 in the whole state brought back,” Sesco said. “I think there was three Korean vets, one during the exchange that we had with Korea, with North Korea recently. So, it’s really big deal to have this happening. If you think about 70-some people coming back from Korea over the whole U.S. and we’re getting one from Germany whose daughter is 84 years old. It’s a pretty big deal, especially for eastern Kentucky and especially for Floyd County.”
Givens’ family is thankful for the opportunity to bury him in the family cemetery. His only daughter, Zelma Givens McDowell of Prestonsburg, was eight years old when he went missing. She will celebrate her 84th birthday on Nov. 12, a few days after her father’s funeral.
“It’s a blessing beyond measure that you would get to, first of all, have the information as to what happened and where it happened and how it happened. That’s information that my mother never had. Her mother never had. They never knew what happened,” Calhoun said.
Givens was about 30 years old when he entered the army from Fort Thomas in Newport. He was assigned to K Company, 3rd Battalion in the 60th Infantry Regiment, which was part of the 9th Infantry Division.
The Department of Defense reported in a press release that in Oct. 1944, Givens’ company was engaged in battle against enemy forces in the Raffelsbrand sector of the Hürtgen Forest, near Germeter, Germany.
“He was reported missing in action as of Oct. 20, 1944, when his company reorganized after a severe counterattack and he could not be accounted for,” the press release said. According to his obituary, he was officially declared Missing in Action the following year.
His remains were identified on June 17, the Department of Defense reported.
Givens’ granddaughter Judi Calhoun said the identification of Givens will give her family closure.
“They never knew, so just to have the closure, and then, just to get to bring him home and pay our respects and let everyone else pay their respects and then get to take him to our family cemetery to lay him to rest where we can pay him respect every Veterans Day and his birthday and all the times of the year that you pay respect because we’ve never had anything where we live for him,” Calhoun said.