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Patriotic Article
Heroes and Patriots
By USAF Sgt. Carolyn Herrick

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Arrival Ceremony Welcomes Fallen U.S. Military Home
(June 25, 2011)

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JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii (AFNS - 6/22/2011) -- Three unidentified American heroes returned from war June 17. They were greeted here by friends and fellow service members, with full military honors. Although their return was sad because they were ones who had paid the ultimate sacrifice, their return also was joyful because they are fallen heroes from Vietnam and World War II, finally brought home to be identified and laid to rest.
Military members transfer the remains of a U.S. service member June 17, 2011, during an arrival ceremony at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. The unidentified remains were recovered by members of the Joint Pacific Accounting Command. Following the ceremony, with full military honors, the remains were sent to JPAC's Central Identification Laboratory where forensic identification analysis will be conducted so they may be identified and returned to member’s family. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Lauren Main
Military members transfer the remains of a U.S. service member June 17, 2011, during an arrival ceremony at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. The unidentified remains were recovered by members of the Joint Pacific Accounting Command. Following the ceremony, with full military honors, the remains were sent to JPAC's Central Identification Laboratory where forensic identification analysis will be conducted so they may be identified and returned to member's family. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Lauren Main
The arrival ceremony, hosted by U.S. Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command officials , represents the success of JPAC's mission: to achieve the fullest possible accounting of Americans lost during the nation's past conflicts.

One woman in attendance came to honor those three heroes -- recovered from the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, the Lao People's Democratic Republic and the Independent State of Papua, New Guinea -- because she herself has experienced the devastation of losing a husband and waiting decades to finally get closure on his death.

"My first husband, Steve Hanson, was a Marine Corps aviator, and he was shot down June 3, 1967," said Carole Hickerson. "His remains came (home) through JPAC in 2000, and he is now buried at Arlington. All that time passed before we had any definite clarification as to what had happened."

They were married for just a year before Steve joined the military to do his part in the Vietnam War. Steve missed the birth of their son, who was born two weeks after his departure for Vietnam. When he was lost in Laos, there was no information on his status for years. Finally, one of his crew members came back, and Mrs. Hickerson felt she had every reason to be hopeful; but eventually it became clear that Capt. Steve Hanson wasn't coming back.

When all the prisoners of war eventually came back, Mrs. Hickerson went out to greet them. There she met Jim, a man who had been a POW for five years, and they eventually married. Now, Mrs. Hickerson attends every ceremony she can, to honor those who are POWs and missing in action.

"It makes me very proud that our country does such a thing," she said. "It makes me cry. But it's great to see that our country and our military still care enough, no matter how many years go by. It doesn't matter if it's someone lost in Afghanistan, Vietnam, Korea or World War II, it's still the same honor that's given to them. I'm very thankful, and I hope that our country and all the people in the United States appreciate what the military is doing."

After the ceremony, the transfer cases were brought to the JPAC Central Identification Laboratory for forensic identification, according to a JPAC press release. If and when identifications are established, the names will be announced following notification of next of kin.

The CIL is the largest forensic anthropology laboratory in the world and identifies, on average, about 74 POW/MIAs per year. More than 83,000 individuals are missing, dating back to World War II, according to JPAC.
By USAF Sgt. Carolyn Herrick
JB Pearl Harbor-HIckam Public Affairs

Copyright 2011

Provided by Air Force News Service

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