WINTHROP, Ark. — Nineteen-year-old Samuel Cyrus Steiner's enlistment in the Navy in the spring of 1940 may not have surprised his younger half-sister Emily Utterback.
"If I had to choose a brother, I couldn't have chosen a better brother than the one God gave me," Utterback said, remembering her childhood while awaiting her brother's funeral service Saturday at East Funeral Home in Texarkana, Texas.
Utterback's childhood memories included the times she accompanied Steiner as he happily made sure she had a horseback ride to and from school each day while they lived in Little River County's Arkinda Community in the 1930s.
The protection and care he expressed for his sister also extended to commitment to his country.
After nearly 80 years, the remains of Steiner, a U.S. Navy enlisted man and MIA military service member in the attack on Pearl Harbor, were brought to East Funeral Home for a proper memorial service.
Steiner was just 20 when he went missing in action Dec. 7, 1941, aboard the battleship U.S.S. Oklahoma.
Besides Emily Utterback and at least 12 other relatives of Steiner's, other funeral attendees included the local Texarkana Chapter No. 278 of the Vietnam Veterans of America, the Texarkana Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution and additional members of other area veterans organizations.
"To us, he is another brother who has now come back home to all of us," said 278 VVA President Greg Beck.
VVA member Freddie Weathers agreed.
"We are also here to support the families of MIA veterans because it's good to see that they finally are getting some closure," he said.
During the memorial service, Billy Steiner Sr., one of Steiner's nephews, said his uncle would send Emily Utterback letters and pictures of himself until the attack on Pearl Harbor.
"I could see in his life character that came from God," he said.
Following the service, Steiner's remains were taken to Camp Ground Cemetery near Winthrop, Arkansas, for burial — a town not too far from where he grew up.
Having enlisted in the Navy in the spring of 1940, 19-year-old Steiner spent a few moments saying goodbye to family members before heading out to Little Rock to be sworn in later in the summer.
Steiner, who was born April 4, 1921, in Highmore, South Dakota, and raised in Arkinda, was assigned to the U.S.S. Oklahoma in the fall of 1940, where he served as a fireman first class.
Between December 1941 and June 1944, the Navy continued to find the remains of unidentified servicemen from the battleship before interring them at two-Hawaiian-based cemeteries.
Shortly after World War II ended, the Army formed the American Graves Registration Service, which in September 1947 began work on disinterring those who died aboard the Oklahoma. This process lead to an additional 35 members of the battleship's crew being identified. The rest of the remains were placed in 62 caskets and reburied as "unknowns" in 46 plots at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific shortly before 1950, according to internet information.
Starting in 2015, the U.S. Department of Defence went to work identifying the rest of the U.S.S. Oklahoma's servicemen's remains.
In March of this year, the Navy notified Steiner's living relatives of his positive identification. He was one of 428 men serving on the Oklahoma who went missing in action.
"I feel like today is a day of life — and even though Samuel's life has ended, his is at least back home," Billy Steiner said.