Theodore's World: U.S. Vietnam Veterans Send Home Fallen Comrades

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June 26, 2009

U.S. Vietnam Veterans Send Home Fallen Comrades

A computer screen reveals the location of a Vietnam War aircraft shot down over the sea off the central province of Phu Yen. The US Navy oceanographic survey ship USNS Bruce C. Heezen, anchored at Tien Sa port in the central city of Da Nang, is on a month-long MIA search mission off the coast of Vietnam.

US and Vietnamese flags fly atop the US Navy oceanographic survey ship USNS Bruce C. Heezen, anchored at Tien Sa port in the central city of Da Nang. The ship is on a month-long MIA search mission off the coast of Vietnam.

A US Air force crew salutes a coffin containing the remains of a US soldier killed in the Vietnam War, during a MIA repatriation ceremony held at Da Nang airport. Two sets of MIA remains which were recovered recently in the central province of Quang Tri were airlifted to Hawaii.

US Vietnam veterans send home fallen comrades


Standing to attention in the hot sun, a Marines baseball cap over his heart, US veteran Alan Segal watched as an honour guard carried the flag-draped coffins of his fellow servicemen onto an Air Force plane, taking them home 34 years after the Vietnam War ended.

Beside him another US veteran of the Vietnam conflict, Rick Janovick, 58, saluted fellow servicemen whose names he did not even know.

Segal and Janovick, who have chosen to live where they once fought, were among dozens who witnessed Wednesday's repatriation ceremony which came as the US and Vietnam step up cooperation in the hunt for missing servicemen.

Among the guests were crew from the USNS Bruce C. Heezen, the first US Navy ship to join the search effort. The ship has just completed a 12-day survey for missing American aircraft in waters off central and south-central Vietnam.

The two sets of remains sent home on Wednesday came from the land but US officials hoped the Heezen's involvement would speed up the search for underwater sites, meaning the remains of airmen still missing at sea could, in the future, also be repatriated with dignity.

Since Vietnam and the US began cooperating more than 20 years ago in the search for the remains of missing US servicemen, more than 600 have been repatriated but about 1,300 are still unaccounted for in Vietnam, the US says.

The Heezen is a civilian-manned oceanographic survey ship ideal for detecting aircraft crash sites on the ocean floor, officials said.

At its heart is an air-conditioned room of humming computers and monitors showing data gathered by the ship's sonars and other instruments.

On a tour given to reporters on Wednesday before the ship left Vietnam, scientists and technicians showed some of the information they had gathered.

To the untrained eye, the shadows and bumps from the ocean floor do not look like much. But the sonar data came from an area where the team was looking for a downed helicopter, Ward said.

"We don't know if it's the helicopter but we hope it is," he said.
A diving mission at a later date will let them know for sure whether they have found the CH-46 transport chopper which went down in the South China Sea with six servicemen aboard during the war, Ward said.
Hundreds of US aircraft and their crews are still missing in Vietnam's coastal waters, JPAC said.
The searchers are assuming human remains still exist with the wreckage despite being submerged for decades, Ward said.
"We have recovered remains from underwater crash sites before, so we know that it's possible," he said.
The Heezen's commander, Robert Reish, said the chance to contribute to bringing home some of those missing personnel made this the most rewarding mission of his 11 years on oceanographic survey ships.
"That meant a lot to me," he said.

Robert Delgado, the mission's senior scientist, had similar feelings.

"We all have friends and classmates and some people who have been lost," said Delgado, who served on a navy refuelling ship during the war.
Reish said there is no definite date for the Heezen to return to Vietnam but he described this first visit as very successful.
"We have found contacts of interest for further investigation, which was the goal of this mission," he said on the ship after returning from the airport where he, Delgado and others from the Heezen had witnessed the repatriation ceremony.

While the Heezen searched the sea, a joint Vietnamese and US team worked on land, where they found remains from a 1971 helicopter crash in central Quang Tri province, Ward said.

Another set came from a November 1969 battle in the same province.

Both sets were flown to Hawaii on Wednesday for identification after the ceremony, which took place against a backdrop of hazy mountains in the city where the first American combat troops arrived in 1965.

"We don't know how many individuals for sure the remains represent. Could be two or more," Ward said.

Under a nearly cloudless sky, two black boxes containing the remains sat on a table covered in a white cloth, wafting in a gentle breeze that offered little relief from the sun.

Soldiers in dress uniform slowly carried the boxes, one by one, to waiting metal coffins and then saluted.

Each box filled only about one-third of its coffin, which the soldiers wrapped with an American flag.

Some in the crowd held hands on their hearts as the coffins were carried up a ramp and into the belly of the airplane, past two lines of green-suited aircrew who would deliver them.

Janovick, the former Marine, took photographs. The other old soldier, Segal, 64, watched silently, holding his hat.

"It took a long time to get them home," Janovick said.
"But they're going home now," said Segal.

Wild Thing's comment........

The warrior ethos are something that our military men and women live by each and every day. It defines who and what they are as a person and as a servicemember. Those ethos read as follows.

I will always place the mission first.
I will never accept defeat.
I will never quit.
I will never leave a fallen comrade.

It’s important that we never forget these men and women. It’s important that WE as a nation do everything in our power to ensure that they all eventually come home. As we remember the sacrifices of our servicemembers and veterans, let us also remember the sacrifices of our POW/MIA’s and their families


......Thank you RAC for sending this to me.

RAC has a website that is awesome. 336th Assault Helicopter Company

13th Combat Aviation Battalion - 1st Aviation Brigade - Soc Trang, Republic of Vietnam

Posted by Wild Thing at June 26, 2009 06:49 AM


Case-Church. JFK and JSM notwithstanding , thanks veterans.

Posted by: Jack at June 26, 2009 12:19 PM

It is amazing that a third of Vietnams missing Americans have been found. Hopefully this Navy ship Heezen can account for more.

The terrainn of Vietnam make searching very difficult. So does the interference by American politicians as pointed out by Jack.

Posted by: TomR at June 26, 2009 01:11 PM


Posted by: pontiff alex at June 26, 2009 01:59 PM