Editor’s note: This is the sixth of a six-part story.
On June 15, Brian Papesh of Joliet received a call from the Army Repatriation Division.
The remains of his grandfather Arthur Countryman were just positively identified. Countryman was deemed missing in action in Germany’s Hürtgen Forest during World War II.
Two of Countryman’s daughters, Georgia Donisch, 85, of Plainfield; and Mary Papesh, 90, of Joliet, were still alive to receive him back.
Countryman was flown under escort into Midway on July 29. Military funeral honors were given on site with an eight-man team, which was also present for the funeral service. The escort remained with Countryman during the drive to the funeral home in Plainfield.
Now that Countryman is recovered, a rosette will be placed next to Countryman’s name on the Walls of the Missing at Netherlands American Cemetery to indicate he’s been found, Brian said.
Funeral arrangements were made at Overman-Jones Funeral Home & Cremation Services in Plainfield. He arrived at Midway Airport on July 29 and was transported to Plainfield by a motorcade that included the Illinois Patriot Guard, which Brian said his cousin Art Countryman III arranged.
The funeral on Aug. 6 was held via open casket with the remains beneath the full uniform of a technical sergeant, including Arthur’s medals and awards, Papesh said.
According to Papesh, Arthur’s medals and awards included a Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, Good Conduct Medal, American Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal and Bronze star attachment (single), World War II Victory Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge 1st Award, Army TSgt 1st Class Chevron’s and a four line brass nameplate.
“He had his memorabilia donated to the Plainfield Historical Society back in 2013,” Brian said in an email. “This included his Purple Heart and many pictures taken of him throughout his military years.”
The best part for Brian is that his mother and Donisch have their father home. He said that wherever Mary now looks in her home, she can see signs of her father: his burial flag in one direction, his medals in a shadow box in the other.
Plainfield Mayor John Argoudelis said he has talked to people around the village who felt that the return of Arthur Countryman was both exciting and touching.
“Certainly as mayor on behalf of the town, I welcome Mr. Countryman back home,” Argoudelis said, “where he can hopefully rest in peace in his native town.”