a while back, on a Saturday. I didn't know the fellow, but, I'm friends with his second cousin. Bud was the 'contact' for the Air Force. I assume this hero's mom had made that decision as she got older and knew her passing was coming, his dad had already passed. He was only married 11 months, no children, young widow would probably remarry. Her son was an only child, had five first cousins, all older. She was making sure he would come 'home'.
You see, he was shot down in 1968, on a mission over Viet Nam. Just him, who was the navigator, and the pilot. Others, in the formation, saw the plane get hit, no parachutes deployed. After the war, searches were conducted, but there were unexploded ordinances found, which impeded the searches. Every year, on the anniversary, the Air Force would contact his widow to update her on the results. She had remarried, had children, grandchildren, moved across the country. But, each year she was reminded of losing him. This year, was different. They had found him, but, not the pilot. The conjecture is that the pilot was shot out of the plane. He left a wife and five children. She never remarried.
So, this hero was brought back from Hawaii to Philadelphia to the funeral home that has buried all of the family for decades. I went, just to honor the man I never knew.
The town police wouldn't let me up the street where the funeral home is. So, I politely asked him where I could park. He asked if I was family, I said, "No, I just want to honor the man. How about if I park on Oak street?" He said that would work. I went around the block and pulled up, parked, got out with Archie. Turned the corner and looked down the street. Motorcycles were parked on the entire block. Must've been 100 at least. Two Viet Nam veteran clubs were standing in front of the funeral home, all holding the Stars and Stripes. Two PA state troopers, 5 county sheriffs on cycles and, the town cops were all standing around. A lot of people were standing on the street where the day before, someone had put flags in the ground the entire length. Got a lump in my throat the size of a football. I then noticed this pretty, petite lady come out of the funeral home, shake hands with a couple of the veterans and walk over to the house next door where the rest of the vets had went. It was getting close to bringing out the casket to the hearse, so, people were gearing up for the ride to Philadelphia where he was to be buried next to his parents. She was immediately surrounded by the group. Spoke to all, they clapped, she said some more, they clapped. There was a connection. They understood, she understood. Very moving. I only took one picture, but, it was the one that summed it up for me.
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