U.S. Marine Cpl. Quentin McCall is finally home.
After he was killed in action during the Battle of Tarawa nearly 78 years ago, his body is now resting Monday in his home state. He is now home buried alongside his fellow veterans at the Mississippi Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Newton.
He received full military honors along with a 21-gun salute, the playing of taps and musical selections played on the bagpipes including the Marine Hymn and “Amazing Grace."
Quintin McCall, Cpl. McCall’s namesake nephew, said he took a DNA test back in 2013 after independent volunteer forensic genealogist Jennifer Morrison helped connect the family with the Marine Corps POW/MIA section, which was trying to identify the remains of soldiers recovered from a burial site. The nephew and his family finally heard back in 2019 that they had recovered remains they believed belonged to his uncle in a burial site on Betio Island and recovered the remains of what they believed to be missing American service members who had been buried in Cemetery #33.
“We were going to bury him around the first of (2020), but of course COVID broke out,” the nephew McCall said. “But he’s home now. He’s got Mississippi dirt on him.”
According to the obituary printed for the ceremony Monday at the Veterans Cemetery, Cpl. McCall was a native of Union Church, which is located about 30 minutes west northwest of Brookhaven. He played football for Jefferson County A.H.S. and scored a “spectacular 45-yard touchdown” on Oct. 2, 1940, according to the Clarion-Ledger’s story titled “Union Church wins 54 to 0.”
The Marine then enlisted on May 7, 1942 at the state recruiting station in Jackson, one of 16 new recruits who joined according to the Clarion-Ledger. They headed to the Marine base in San Diego, Calif., for basic training and then departed for the Pacific Theater. He was a part of reinforcements who relieved Marines in the 1st Marine Division. A month later, they departed for New Zealand for rest and relaxation prior to their next assignment.
He and the Marines in the India Company, 3rd Battalion of the 6th Marines (1-3/6) were sent to Betio as part of Operation: GALVANIC to secure the island to control the airstrip on the Tarawa Atoll. This was reportedly one of the bloodiest battles in the Marine Corps history.
According to a family member, the received documents from his commanding officer that Cpl. McCall and the officer were covering for six of their fellow Marines so they could get out safely. They all did along with the commanding officer, but Cpl. McCall didn’t make it.
He died Nov. 23, 1943, two days before Thanksgiving, at the age of 23. He was buried in Cemetery 33 in Tarawa, Republic of Kiribati, in what would later be designated the "Row D Burial Site," along with 30 other Marines.
The family was notified of his death via telegram by around Christmas Day or New Year’s Day 1944. However, Cpl. McCall finally returned to Mississippi over the weekend for a visitation from 2-4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 24, at Chancellor Funeral Home. A two-hour procession left the funeral home at 9 a.m. Monday and arrived at 11 a.m. for the full military graveside services.
“I can’t really describe the feeling (to see him finally come home),” the nephew McCall said. “It’s a mixture of happy and sad. It’s just a blessing that he was found. There’s several more hundred over there that needs to be brought home.”
McCall said he is grateful for the way people have turned out to honor his uncle from when he was flown home on Friday until today when he came to his final resting place at the Mississippi Veterans Cemetery.”
“It’s unreal,” he said. “We’ve made a lot of good friends in last three days.”