Jawbone of Long Dead U.S. Marine Found in Kid’s Rock Collection

Ramapo College of New Jersey
Ramapo College of New Jersey

Capt. Everett Leland Yager of the U.S. Marine Corps was 30 years old when he embarked on a military training exercise back in California in 1951, and it’s fair to say the World War II vet probably had a lot of ideas about how he wanted to be remembered by his wife and two children should he be killed during his service. Full military honors, perhaps a somber memorial. A burial site where future generations could remember him.

He almost certainly didn’t expect any of his remains to wind up in a child’s rock collection. And yet that’s exactly what happened, according to genealogy experts.

The “unexpected” discovery was announced this week by the Ramapo College of New Jersey, where a genetics lab determined that Yager’s jawbone had somehow been mistaken for a rock during a “scavenging exploration” in Arizona. The “rock” was finally referred for forensic testing in January 2023, and students ultimately found it was a DNA match to Yager’s daughter.

Yager, who died in a training accident over the air in California’s Riverside County, was laid to rest at a cemetery in Missouri, and there had reportedly never been any inkling that the grave did not contain all of his remains.

“No one is quite sure how the jaw bone ended up in Arizona since the accident took place in the air over California. One theory is that a scavenger, such as a bird, picked it up and eventually deposited it during its travels over Arizona,” Ramapo College said in a press release. “Plans are being made to reunite the remains with the family.”

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