DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The remains of a Marine from Iowa will soon return to his home state 76 years after his death in World War II.

The Defense Department used DNA from a niece to identify the remains of 18-year-old Pvt. Channing Whitaker, of Granger, Iowa. Whitaker died on Nov. 22, 1943 during the Battle of Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands in the South Pacific.

Whitaker’s niece Marla Brubaker tells KCCI it is a miracle that her DNA was able to identify Whitaker’s remains.

Archaeologists have been working since 2009 to dig up and identify the remains of soldiers who were buried in a previously undiscovered burial trench on the Gilbert Islands.

Whitaker’s family will hold a funeral with full military honors in Des Moines on Nov. 22.