(WIS) - Weeks after learning the shocking details of his father's death and the months that would follow it, a North Carolina man says there are still things he's learning about the WWII veteran that raised him.
"He didn't mention he had served two tours," 58-year-old Jay Brooks said as he poured over the discharge paperwork of his father, the late Robert D. Brooks.
"The greatest joy he (my father) got was when he could do something for somebody and they would smile and thank him…and I think he lived for that," Brooks continued.
Robert Brooks' long life of service included serving in the U.S. Army Air Corps during WWII. According to his son, the Gloversville, NY native flew several missions over Europe as a ball turret gunner aboard B-17 bombers.
"The typical average lifespan of a ball turret gunner was four missions," Brooks said. "It was a high mortality position, but he got bit by the flying bug and once he got up in the air he would do whatever."
At home, Jay added that his father was a quiet man who had a deep love for nature and the great outdoors.
"He would love to take me fishing and hunting with him. We'd spend many days during the fishing season going fishing," Brooks said. "And we'd catch a good number of fish because he knew exactly where to go. He introduced me to that (nature) and I'm always forever grateful," he added.
So far investigators in both New York and Arkansas have charged four people in connection with the death of Robert Brooks, who passed away in January.
Authorities believe people who were acting as his caretakers then concealed the death and eventually transported his remains to Arkansas where they were left in a suitcase on a farm in Prairie County.
"The state police forensic lab told me he was 67 pounds when they found him," Brooks said. "(An) average 10-year-old boy weighs 70 (pounds). It's devastating to know that."
Brooks added that in recent weeks he has also spent a lot of time thinking about the support he's received from around the world after getting news of his father's death.
In mid-April members of the Patriot Guard riders from several states escorted the remains of Robert Brooks from Arkansas to Columbia for a memorial service at Fort Jackson National Cemetery.
Some members traveled the full 750 miles.
"At times they (the riders) told me when they were in Mississippi that over 140 more riders from Memphis, TN joined them," Brooks said.
"You couldn't see the front of the line and you couldn't see the back of the line… and they were riding two abreast so there was quite a few number of Patriot Guard Riders involved," Brooks said. "That just meant so much to me - that they would do that."
Jay Brooks took possession of his father's ashes after the service. He said his desire is to have them placed next to the grave of his late son at Bush River Memorial Gardens in Columbia.
Anyone looking to make donations to the Brooks' family to help can find more information by clicking here.