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Saturday, July 13, 2024 at 5:51 AM

Community celebrates Thrall WWII soldier’s return

Community celebrates Thrall WWII soldier’s return
Local members of the Patriot Guard, an organization that honors fallen soldiers and first responders, arrived at Leroy C. Cloud's memorial service. Photos by Hunter Dworaczyk

Residents gathered over the weekend to honor a man who they did not know.

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Leroy C. Cloud, 24, of Thrall, killed during World War II, was buried at Taylor City Cemetery Saturday, April 6.

Cloud’s remains were flown into Taylor after the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency used DNA analysis to account for the soldier. His body was marked as an unidentified soldier for eight decades.

“I’m glad that we are gathered here together to praise God for the miracle of bringing him back,” said Carolyn Shinn, stepdaughter of Cloud’s brother. “Because after 80 years, it is a miracle.”

Carolyn Shinn, stepdaughter of Leroy Cloud’s brother, gives a tribute to Cloud. Shinn described what the WWII tanker might have been like based on what she knew from her stepfather.
Military member hands folded flag to Carolyn Shinn, Leroy C. Cloud’s brother’s stepdaughter. Shinn later gave the flag to JB Cloud, Cloud’s great nephew.

According to DPAA information, Leroy Cloud was killed in combat in France in July 1944. Cloud was a member of the 744th Tank Battalion, and was part of a four-person M5A1 Stuart light tank crew.

DPAA said Cloud’s unit was engaged in a battle with German forces and their tank was struck by a shoulder-fired rocket July 26, 1944.

After the end of the war, the American Graves Registration Command identified two sets of remains that were not able to be recognized. They then were buried without names at the Normandy American Cemetery in France.

The DPAA said a historian determined the tank belonged to Cloud’s company and exhumed the remains in April 2018 for testing.

The lab, located in Nebraska, used a DNA sample from JB Cloud, the deceased’s great nephew, to identify the remains successfully.

“This is something we’ve all heard stories about over the years,” Cloud said. “We knew he had died; we knew when he died, but we didn’t know how. My great grandparents really never got closure on that. For me, this is more for him and for my grandfather and my great grandparents of Thrall, Texas.”

The WWII tanker received full military honors during his funeral. The recovered soldier received an insignia on his headstone, had a 21-gun salute at the funeral and a bugler played taps.

Attendees sang “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory” and “The Caissons Go Rolling Along” during the memorial service. The music was led by Dale Kessel, Warren Lundgren and Mavis Takatsuka.

Don Neal reads the obituary of U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Leroy C. Cloud, a Thrall WWII tanker who was positively identified after 80 years, during a memorial service Saturday, April 6. Photos by Hunter Dworaczyk

Members of the local Patriot Guard and American Legion post came to the funeral to celebrate the soldier’s return.

“[Leroy Cloud] is now going to be an honorary, lifetime member of our organization,” said Keith Smith, member of American Legion Graham D. Luhn Post 39. “He will always be on our rosters forever. We’re just so thankful that we’re able to be here and honor him.”

A rosette will be added to Leroy Cloud’s name on the Walls of the Missing in Normandy now that he is accounted for.

Leroy C. Cloud received full military honors during his funeral Saturday, April 6, including a military gun salute.
Since Leroy C. Cloud died with no children, nobody at the memorial service actually knew the fallen soldier. Instead, residents, Patriot Guard members and American Legion members attended the packed cemetery.

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