OPELOUSAS, La. (AP) — The public is invited to pay tribute in May to a World War II soldier from St. Landry Parish whose remains were identified nearly 80 years after his death.
Army Pvt. Hillary Soileau went missing during a mission to clear Guadalcanal of Japanese forces in January 1943. He was 23. He was declared killed in action in December 1945.
“It’s a supreme honor to be a part of bringing someone home who has been missing for 80 years,” Soileau’s nephew, Greg Badeaux, told KATC-TV.
Funeral services will be held on May 21 at Sibille Funeral Home in Opelousas. A Rosary will begin at 10:45 a.m. followed by the services, which will conclude with the burial and gravesite honors at Cedar Hill Cemetery in the town of Washington.
Badeaux is working with the military and the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency to coordinate his uncle’s final arrangements.
“It’s amazing the attention to detail the Department of Army and the DPAA are putting forward to make this an honorable event,” he said.
Soileau’s remains were identified in 2020, following a forensics investigation by the DPAA. Badeaux’s mother, Mary Soileau Badeaux, is Soileau’s only living sibling. She was contacted in 2018 to provide a DNA sample as the agency investigated the identity of a soldier known as “Unknown X-52,” whose remains were uncovered in Guadalcanal in 1943. The DNA was a match.
“It was very emotional for her,” Badeaux said of his mother. “She remembered being nine or ten years old and Hillary leaving for war hugging everybody and everybody crying. And unfortunately, that was the last time they actually saw him.”
Badeaux said the family decided to bring Soileau home to St. Landry Parish where he’ll be laid to rest in Cedar Hill Cemetery, which is also the resting place of Soileau’s parents, Odey and Leona Soileau, who died never knowing what happened to their son.
“There are no emotions to describe what they would be going through right now, if they had the opportunity to see this come to fruition,” Badeaux said.