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Viral video from plane carrying WWII remains comes full circle for Johnson City woman

Becky Campbell • Updated Oct 18, 2017 at 9:06 PM

Diane Cupp believes things happen for a reason, and she has an experience to back that up.

Cupp just returned from Clearwater, Florida, where she participated in the funeral for World War II Lt. George Betchley, a man she never met but to whom she feels eternally connected.

In Cupp’s first encounter — for lack of a better word — with Betchley, no one even knew his name.

In July 2016, Cupp and her husband, retired Judge Bob Cupp, were returning from a vacation touring WWII sites in Germany. They were weeks late getting home because Cupp’s husband had a medical emergency that left him needing surgery and hospitalization overseas.

When their flight arrived in Atlanta, the pilot announced an Army private was on the plane to escort the remains of an unknown WWII soldier and would deboard first. Almost immediately, a group of choral students from the Iowa Ambassadors of Music — returning from a tour in Europe — stood and began an a capella rendition of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” to honor the fallen soldier.

Cupp quickly turned on her phone’s video camera and recorded the song.

Watch the video below:

After she posted it to her Facebook profile, the video went viral and was shared thousands of times worldwide. Even the Pentagon noticed and contacted her for permission to use her part of the story in a press release after Betchley, killed on a mission during the war in 1945, was identified, Cupp said.

Cupp also received a Facebook message from the daughter of Betchley’s first cousin. The family had discovered the “Battle Hymn” video after their lost family member was identified, and a relative set out to find the person responsible for the recording.

Cupp had numerous conversations on social media and the phone with Betchley’s relatives and made fast friends with them. So much so that they invited her to attend Betchley’s funeral this past weekend.

Cupp said she was humbled to be asked to attend as well as participate in the graveside ceremony. Betchley’s cousin’s daughter read a brief poem, then asked Cupp to read a second writing. It was on a piece of paper the woman found blowing around Arlington National Cemetery several years earlier when she visited with her children.

The letter, she assumed, had blown off someone’s grave and appeared to be written by someone from Tennessee — coincidentally Cupp’s home state.

“I am a Tennessean, humbled to be here kneeled beside your grave,
Thankful for my freedom and the sacrifice you made.’
I am grateful for your service, courageous spirit tried and true.
Love of country, strength of character. A protector and patriot to all you knew.
I salute you on this October day. I’ll remember forevermore.
May God hold and protect your family until you meet at heaven’s door.”

Cupp said she was told Betchley’s mother never gave up hope her son would be found alive.

“I felt a connection to her, having lost my own son,” Cupp said, referring to the loss of her own son, Dustin, in 2007 in a tragic accident.

Cupp said all the coincidences surrounding Betchley’s identification and location of his family touched her deeply and created a bond of friendship she’ll cherish forever.

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