Decades after death, family receives uncle's war medals

FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) - A Florence family continues to remember their war hero, decades after World War II. And now, they feel like he has finally come home.

"Landing with his company in Iwo Jima on the 21st of February 1945, Corporal Boykin repeatedly led assaults against the enemy," Lynne Boykin reads aloud. Her uncle, Corporal Ray Boykin, gave his life fighting the war in Iwo Jima.

His final moments are captured in that letter, written to the Boykin family back in 1945.

"My uncle Billy was only 9 years old when he went to the bus station with my grandfather, that was the last time he saw Uncle Ray," remembers Ms. Boykin.

While Cpl. Ray Boykin was abroad, he was fatally wounded in Japan.

"He did receive two purple hearts, the valor medal, and various others," says Ms. Boykin.

But the family never received his war medals.

"I can imagine the day that my dad came home and found out my Uncle Ray didn't make it," says Ms. Boykin.

With only one surviving brother, Lynne wanted the family to finally have her uncle's medals. She said it is a way to remember and honor the man who gave his life for his country.

Ms. Boykin began writing letters to the U.S. Naval Service, asking for the medals.

"Now, more than 60 years later, we finally have those medals in hand. So, this is the perfect ending to our story," says Ms. Boykin.

The family just received Cpl. Boykin's medals, and Ms. Boykin decided to surprise Cpl. Boykin's surviving brother, Billy, with the gift.

"We said, 'we have a surprise for you.' And we presented him with the medals. He just looked at me and said 'you'll never know what this means to me.'"

Lynne Boykin never had the chance to meet her Uncle Ray, but is inspired by what he gave for our country, for her family. She says, even today, it feels like he is still with them.

"Just having these in your hands, you can say now that everything is complete," says Ms. Boykin about the medals.

It's a memory they can now hold in their hands, and the Boykin family is very grateful for finally receiving the war medals of Cpl. Ray Boykin.

"What he gave for our country, for us, even today, years later we still feel like he's with us," says Ms. Boykin.

She smiles every time she drives by the National Cemetery, knowing her uncle died a hero.

"When you go into the National Cemetery and you see how many people, and how quickly its filling up now...but, its just such an honor," says Ms. Boykin.

Just last year, the family was able to celebrate Cpl. Boykin at the cemetery, after he finally had a finished head stone.

"We appreciate everything that these men and women do in the military, and we need to keep this alive," says Ms. Boykin.

It has been a long journey for Cpl. Ray Boykin to be completely laid to rest. His family says receiving his medals was one last step in bringing him home to them.

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