After more than 74 years missing in action, a U.S. soldier’s remains were recently brought home to Albertville and buried in Nixon Chapel Cemetery in Horton.
On Saturday, family, friends and community members gathered for the funeral service of Ira (Buck) Slaton, a second-class seaman in the U.S. Navy who was stationed on the U.S.S. Colorado during World War II.
Slaton received full military honors as he was laid to rest beside one of his sisters and her husband. There was a 21-gun salute, the playing of taps, the presentation of the American Flag to his only surviving sibling, Jack Slaton of Rockmart, Georgia, a commendation from the office of Gov. Kay Ivey and the presentation of a Gold Star banner.
“It’s very humbling to say the least,” said Jacqueline McDowell, the daughter of Jack Slaton and niece of the late Ira Slaton. “It’s a humbling experience as an American to see that so many still care for those still lost.”
Slaton was serving as a gunman aboard the U.S.S. Colorado when it went down in the Pacific, off the coast of Tinian Island, after being attacked by hidden Japanese military on the morning of July 24, 1944. He was one of 39 killed and later subsequently buried at a cemetery on Saipan. Slaton was 22 years old.
McDowell said her uncle’s remains weren’t identified until September 2018 after a few family members living in Michigan had an interesting hunch. She said they had seen records of the soldiers on the U.S.S. Colorado but realized his name might have been listed incorrectly.
Rather than being listed “I.N.,” he was listed “J.N.,” McDowell said. She said they realized the typo was possible after looking through different things he had written before. They discovered his “I” could have easily been mistaken for a “J.” They were able to figure it all out thanks to Slaton’s dental records. McDowell said he had a tooth pulled before being shipped out to war.
After a long journey traveled to see their sailor brought home, McDowell said the family would now have peace knowing Slaton is finally at rest.
“For my dad, I think it gives him final closure because his mother and older siblings always wanted to find him and bring him home,” she said. “It means a lot to all of us.”