Saturday, May 21, 2016

Last Stop: Terrapin Station


Chief Petty Officer Albert Hayden returned home, to Mechanicsville, Maryland, in St. Mary's County, earlier this week.  It was a journey that was seventy-five and one-half years in the making.  

On the morning of December 7, 1941, Chief Petty Officer Hayden was serving aboard the USS Oklahoma (BB-37), which was docked on Battleship Row at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.  He was one of the 429 men (14 Marines and 415 sailors) aboard the Oklahoma who was killed in the Japanese surprise attack.  Chief Petty Officer Hayden was the first person from Maryland killed in World War II.  

Albert Eugene Hayden was born in Mechanicsville, Maryland in 1896.  He was one of four Hayden children, three of whom were boys.  His father, James, died in 1917.  His mother, Emma, died in 1955.  At the time of his death on the Oklahoma, Chief Petty Officer Hayden was forty-four.  A career Navy man, he never married or had any children.   

Hundreds of the men who were killed aboard the Oklahoma, which was struck by nine Japanese torpedoes on that terrible December Sunday morning, were buried as "unknowns" in Hawaii.  It was long feared that none of their identities would ever be known.  However, in 2015, the Department of Defense began using a state-of-the-art forensic lab in Hawaii to test the remains.  Lo and behold, identifications started to be made. 


It is reported that the death of her son broke his mother Emma's heart and that she her dying wish - shared with her family - was that Albert would somehow, someday make it home.  While the family's confidence in the realization of that wish waxed and waned now and again over the course of three-quarters of a century, hope was never abandoned.  A space in the family burial plot was left available for him - just in case.  

On Wednesday, May 18, 2016, Chief Petty Officer Albert Eugene Hayden claimed it.  Seventy-five and one-half years after he gave his life in the service of his country, and after a long, arduous journey, he finally made it home.  

-AK 


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