The Houston National Cemetery is where stories of service live.
Twenty miles away, the Cornwell family has pieced together a part of their own American History.
“I always knew that he had a brother who was lost and his remains were never identified,” Scott Cornwell Said.
First Lieutenant Ottaway Cornwell was 23 years old and newly married when he enlisted in the Army Air Force. It wasn’t long after departing to fight in World War II when he died in battle.
“He was shot down over France in a dog fight with the Germans,” Scott said.
For the Cornwell family, that’s where Ottaway’s story ended.
“My dad had always said it was very difficult on his mother to find out she had lost a son like that and not know exactly where he was,” he said.
About 72 years later, in 2016, the family got a call from France.
“We were all a little bit suspicious,” said Scott.
A French chef was hiking when he made a major discovery.
“Some spectacles, some glasses that were still intact, some bone fragments and parts of an airplane,” he said.
The chef made it his mission to find out who the remains belonged to, and, with help from both governments and a DNA test it led him to Houston.
“He has pictures of Ottaway hanging on the walls of his small apartment, and he said, ‘I feel like he has become my relative,’” Scott added.
In 2018, the Cornwells flew to France for a special ceremony honoring his uncle’s life.
“It’s brought us together with a lot of people we wouldn’t of otherwise known,” Teri Cornwell said.
In March of 2020, they planned to bring Ottaway’s remains home for his final farewell.
“The pandemic hit about that time,” Scott said.
In one month, a new name and a new story will live at this cemetery and Scott can’t help but imagine his late father’s words.
“He would probably say, ‘Welcome home Ottaway,’” Scott Cornwell said.
The memorial service for First Lieutenant Ottaway Cornwell will be held at the Houston National Cemetery on September 23 at 12:30 p.m.