KSLA Salutes: Texas soldier killed during WWII is coming home

KSLA Salutes Army Staff Sgt. Leo Husak
Published: Mar. 29, 2018 at 2:00 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 22, 2018 at 12:11 PM CDT
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A copy of the telegram the Husak family received from the U.S. Army, notifying them Leo Husak...
A copy of the telegram the Husak family received from the U.S. Army, notifying them Leo Husak was MIA, they later declared him KIA/ Source: Husak Family
Leo Husak's younger brother John, shares family stories with KSLA News 12's Marie Waxel/Source:...
Leo Husak's younger brother John, shares family stories with KSLA News 12's Marie Waxel/Source: KSLA News 12

BOSSIER PARISH, LA (KSLA) - A soldier killed in Germany during World War II is making his long-awaited return home to Texas.

It's a homecoming 73 years in the making.

"We had come back from school and the family had just received the telegram that he was missing in action. So when we got home, it wasn't a happy situation; both my mother and father were crying."

John Husak remembers vividly the day the Army reported his brother missing.

That was in February 1945.

Nine months later, the Army declared Staff Sgt. Leo Husak as killed in action.

"(And) that was like reliving it all over again, and a finality," John Husak remembers.

As the years went on, he and another brother submitted DNA samples to the U.S. Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency in hopes of one day bringing their brother's remains home where they belong.

"The family did have a memorial service for him in the church. And we kind of thought, well, that put closure on it. But there was still this openness, he's not here."

For nearly three-quarters of a century, an unidentified body lay at rest in a Netherlands cemetery.

"They gave him a number 1034," said John Husak.

With the help of dental records and other forensic tests, including a 99 percent match in DNA, 1034 now is Staff Sgt. Leo Husak.

"At first, I thought this is some sort of a hoax, somebody is going to ask me for money," John Husak said of when the Army first informed them of the identification.

"It's unbelievable really."

It wasn't until Army officials presented John Husak's family with their findings, including information about his brother's final battle, did he truly believe.

What the Army didn't know is that Leo Husak made a pact with a fellow solider before he died, promising one another they'd visit their families if one of them didn't make it.

The story of Leo Husak's death shared by Army officials is nearly identical to the one John Husak heard years ago.

"He was on a scouting patrol at about 9 o'clock at night. And he came around the snowbank with five other people. And as soon as he showed his head, he was hit; and they said he was killed instantly."

Leo Husak died in Germany's Hürtgen Forest during the longest single battle the U.S. Army has ever fought.

"He was killed 30 January 1945," John Husak said.

Leo Husak was just 21 years old.

"My mother would always say she wished they would find him and bring him home," John Husak said as he took a deep breath.

"He's coming home.

"We hope that, as sad as it's going to be, and it is, it will put closure to it and will have the body remains in the family plot."

The missing link to the Husaks' military heritage.

"My father was in World War I. Leo was in two (WWII). I served during the Korean-Vietnam era. Our son John retired from the Air Force, also he served during the Desert Storm era; and our only grandson is presently in the ROTC program at the University of Texas at Arlington, and he hopes to fly with the Air Force he has a pilot slot at this time," John Husak said.

"We are just eternally grateful to all of those people that worked on this case. Well, not only this case, but the other cases to put it all together."

And he shares a message of hope to those still searching.

"Don't give up. The Army is working and they are going to bring everyone home that they possibly can."

The Husak family is working on finalizing details for the service. They expect it to be held in West, Texas, in June.

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