Robert L. Zehetner was born on July 2, 1924, and hailed from Brooksville, Fla.
Just after the attack on Pearl Harbor, he joined the Marine Corps Reserve at 17. He would go on to serve with Company F, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division.
The 2nd landed on the small island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll of the Gilbert Islands on Nov. 20, 1943. Japanese fighter resistance was stiff, and Zehetner was killed on the first day of battle. His remains were initially sent to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii as an unknown.
In 2018, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) was able to identify Zehetner through DNA sent in by his sister, who was still alive. Pfc. Zehetner was officially accounted for on June 20, 2018.
Seventy-five years after his untimely death, Zehetner was brought home to rest in his home state. He was interred in Section 321, Site 65 of Florida National Cemetery.
According to Tampa’s Bay News 9, Zehetner’s sister “said she wished her brother’s remains could have been brought home while her parents and other siblings were alive, [but] she said she’s glad he’s home at last. ‘Oh, it’s just beautiful,’” she said.
Zehetner’s decorations include the Purple Heart Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, Presidential Unit Citation, Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal and World War II Victory Medal.
We honor his service.