Something so very special happened to me just last week...something so meaningful and unexpected.

By Trish Morgan
For the News Tribune
Something so very special happened to me just last week...something so meaningful and unexpected.
My sister Debbie was browsing on Google for information unrelated to what she discovered. Debbie found information about our father's half-brother - someone from long ago we had never met! And even better - I have discovered first cousins, second cousins, beautiful pieces of family history I never knew existed. And, in April...a trip to Hancock County and especially the county seat of Sneedville, Tennessee - the birthplace of my father.
I have been involved with genealogical research since about the age of 16. I started with a little bit of tracing the lineage of my mom's Umstot side of the family, and then started with my father's side of the family of Cavin.
Throughout the years, I have gone back and forth between the Umstots’ and the Cavins’ family trees, but over the last five years, have devoted most of my time researching my father's family. There is LOTS of rich tradition and heritage, as I have found!!
I have traced the Cavin family back seven generations, but have come to a standstill in the early 1700s. It is most likely at that time that the Cavin family lived in Ireland, and I have not searched outside of the United States - yet.
Just a brief history before I tell you what was the perfect thing to end the year 2018. Let's start with Oscar Frederick Cavin Sr. (my father's father). Sr. married Mae Edds, and then had three children. Shortly after the third child (William Franklin, known as Frank) was born, Mae passed away.
Approximately two years later, Sr. married Leila Iona Williams (my father's mother). Sr. and Leila had six children - with my father (Oscar Frederick Cavin Jr., known as Fred) being the oldest. The sixth child was stillborn, and unfortunately, Leila passed away sometime thereafter (my dad Fred was 8 years old at the time). Sr. decided to give away four of his children to relatives to raise, but he kept my father, and they moved from Hancock County, Tennessee, to Richmond, Virginia.
Today's story is about Frank - whom I just discovered is a decorated American war hero - giving the ultimate sacrifice for his country.
Per the Citizen Tribune of Morristown, Tennessee (October 2018):
“A Marine who died almost 75 years ago has come home.
“PFC William Franklin Cavin, a Sneedville, TN resident who died in World War II but who was not identified until just a few months ago, was buried Saturday near his home in Hancock County, TN after being brought home from a remote Pacific Island where he was killed in World War II.
“‘It was absolutely surprising,’ said Jean Ann Tucker, his great-great-niece. ‘We were always told his body was washed out to sea or was in a mass grave somewhere.’
“Cavin died just short of his 18th birthday during the Battle of Tarawa. A total of 1,000 soldiers and sailors were killed that day storming the beach against the Japanese Imperial Army.
“Cavin was not among the listed dead. His body was never identified.
“Instead, he was one of many Marines buried in a cemetery on the island in a grave marked ‘Tarawa Unkown X-032.’
“On March 13, 2017, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System exhumed the unknown remains to identify. The unidentified remains were confirmed to be Cavin’s and his surviving family was notified.
“Tucker said her great-great-uncle had enlisted in the Marine Corps just four months before Pearl Harbor. He enlisted when he was 16 years old.
“He grew up in Hancock County raised by his grandparents.
“His remains arrived at 3:07 p.m. Friday to McGhee Tyson Airport with a ceremony in his honor.
“Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam also declared a day of mourning from sunrise to sunset Saturday to honor Cavin.
“‘Frank was not even 17 years old when he enlisted in the Marine Corp to serve his country,’ Haslam said in a press release. ‘This native Tennessean was clearly born with the volunteer spirit and we are proud to welcome him home.’
“He was buried with military honors Saturday afternoon in Overton Cemetery, just miles shy from the Virginia border.”
Uncle Frank's Obituary:
“PFC William Franklin (Frank) Cavin was born on Dec. 4, 1924 in Hancock County to Mae Edds Cavin and O. Fred Cavin. Frank had two older sisters, Queena Rae (born Oct. 23, 1920) and Roxie Jeanette Cavin (born Dec. 27, 1922). Mae Cavin died Jan. 9, 1925, shortly after Frank’s birth, and all three siblings were sent to be raised by relatives. Frank was raised by his grandparents Henry (Tip) Cavin and Julie Cavin.
“Frank enlisted in the United States Marine Corps on Aug. 5, 1941, approximately four months prior to the attack at Pearl Harbor. At the time of his enlistment, Frank was still four months short of his seventeenth birthday. He and his grandfather both attested to his being born Dec. 4, 1923. In Nov. 1943, Frank was assigned to Company F, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines for the invasion of Tarawa. He was killed on the first day of the battle, Nov. 20, along with about one thousand Marines before the battle was concluded.
“At the time of his death, Frank was survived by his sisters, Queena Rae Testerman (Cavin) and Jeanette Cavin (later Sessoms); his father, O. Fred Cavin; and his grandparents, Henry and Julie Cavin. Today, the immediate family consists of Claude Cavin (cousin); Faye Testerman-Bozeman (niece); James (Jimmy, cousin) Cavin; Sheila Kunkel (Sessoms, niece); Steve Sessoms (nephew); and great-nieces, great-nephews, and cousins.
“With many thanks to the men and women who have worked so very hard to identify the remains and to inform the family of all of the known circumstances of Frank’s death as one of many heroes of the Second World War. The program to identify the unknown remains is one of the great things that the Department of the Navy and the Marine Corp have done for the Marines who died and were buried in unmarked or or mass graves.
“Special thanks to Ms. Hattie Johnson for her efforts, concern, and empathy.
“With regret, Frank’s sisters did not live to see his remains returned with full military honors to be buried with family members in the Overton private cemetery in Hancock County. However, both sisters would have been overjoyed at the repatriation of his remains. Graveside ceremony will be held Saturday Oct. 13 at 1 p.m.”
Here's another press release that was put out by the Governor's office prior to the transfer of Cavin's remains:
“NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Department of Veterans Services Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder recognize the service and sacrifice of U.S. Marine Corps Private First Class William Franklin (Frank) Cavin of Hancock County, who was killed in the Battle of Tarawa on November 20, 1943.  He was assigned to Company F, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division on Betio Island and was among 1,000 Marines and Sailors killed during the World War II battle with the Japanese.  He was 18 years old.
“Immediately following the battle, service members were buried in cemeteries on the island. In July, 2013, History Flight, Inc. reportedly found remains in Cemetery #33 and turned them over to Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA). These remains were buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific as Tarawa Unknown X-032.  On March 13, 2017, DPAA and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System exhumed the unknown remains to begin the identification process. On April 23, 2018, the unidentified remains were confirmed to be Cavin’s.
“‘Frank was not even 17-years old when he enlisted in the Marine Corps to serve his country,’ Haslam said.  “‘This native Tennessean was clearly born with the Volunteer Spirit and we are proud to welcome him home.’
“‘The Battle of Tarawa is more than a legendary piece of World War II history,’ said Department of Veterans Services Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder. ‘The pain of those lost still lives with us today. However, Frank Cavin will no longer lie under a headstone marked Tarawa Unknown X-032. This hero will be laid to rest with full honors, under a headstone with his name, among his family.’
“The dignified transfer of remains will be at the McGhee Tyson Airport at 3:07 p.m. (EDT).  Media planning to attend the arrival need to contact McGhee Tyson Public Relations at (865) 342-3014 and must arrive by 2:00 p.m. for appropriate staging.
“Haslam has declared a day of mourning from sunrise to sunset on Saturday, October 13 in honor of Cavin’s ultimate sacrifice.
“Cavin is survived by his niece, Faye Bozeman, cousin Claude Cavin, cousin James Cavin, niece Sheila Kunkel and nephew Steve Sessoms as well as several great nieces and nephews.”
Uncle Frank - You have made me beam with such patriotic pride. A Hero. A decorated hero who paid the ultimate price in a successful campaign against the Japanese Imperial Army. Now, you are laid to rest with the Cavin family who loved you so.
How I wish I could have known you.
I will soon be coming to pay my respects, Uncle. And my dad will be there in spirit - for he too served his country. Salute.