Part 3: A first time meeting years in the making

    11:05 PM, Nov 12, 2012   |    comments
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    • Eva Bumpers
    • Private First Class Jarrell Bryant
    • Ben De Staercke
    • Larry Bryant
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  • LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- One year ago, last Veteran's Day we introduced you to a young Belgian man and his mission to keep an Arkansas soldier's memory alive, plus the search for his relatives.

    Immediately after our story aired, emails and phone calls poured in leading us to Private First Class Jarrell Bryant's family and a first time meeting to remember.

    It's a walk more than three years in the making, a moment to bring generations together and a first time meeting long overdue. Three people, a 21-year-old Belgian postal worker, a mother and a son, are all connected by one man.

    "I really wanted to meet this family because it's... How do you say it? I wanted to get to know the people he called family," explained Ben De Staercke.

    We discovered this story one year ago when we first introduced you to De Staercke, a man with a deep connection to the Enola, Arkansas soldier. Three to four times a year, De Staercke comes to The Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery and Memorial in Belgium to visit Private Bryant.  Bryant was killed in action during World War II while volunteering to take a wounded buddy to get help.

    Now, for the first time ever De Staercke is in Lenexa, Kansas. His search for the family Private Bryant left behind finally over.

    "Can't really explain how much this all means to me to see the people he loved and he left behind. It's so really marvelous experience," says De Staercke.

    Private Bryant's widow is 93-year-old Eva Bumpers and their only son is Larry Bryant.

    De Staercke adopted Private Bryant's grave in 2009.

    "It's a very beautiful place and he's buried with his comrades in arms, it's a very nice place to be buried," De Staercke describes to Bumpers.

    "I've been thrilled to death that he was taking care of Jarrell's grave because he's worth everything to Larry and me, so anything that Ben does for him, I'll love him for taking care of the grave," said Bumpers.

    "He must be a great guy, and anyone that would do that for what they called the great generation... What those people did, died to set them free," said Bryant.

    De Staercke said it's an honor and so is meeting Private Bryant's family.

    "I still don't know a lot, but I know how he lived, who his family was and even how he died, so it's a bit of rounding of the circle," he said.

    A circle that will never be broken between a young Belgian man, a son, a war widow and an American hero.

    "And, we'll never know what sacrifice he gave for us. We know that his death, everything about him we lost, except his memory, but we know he lives on in our hearts and always will," said Bumpers.

    All three hope to keep in touch.

    Previous stories:

    Part 1: Lost but not forgotten

    Part 2: Lost and found

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