Repatriation Service Honors Six Vietnam War Casualties
(May 23, 2009)
|ARLINGTON, VA (5/20/2009) — A throng of
family members and Marine veterans gathered amidst the white
grave markers of Arlington National Cemetery to remember the
service and sacrifice of six Vietnam War casualties May 14.|
After 41 years, the remains of the six
Marines killed in Vietnam have been identified and
Lance Cpls. Kurt LaPlant, Luis Palacios, Ralph L. Harper,
Felix Flores and Pfcs. Catarino Morelos Jr. and Jose Ramon
Sanchez died while serving in the Quang Tri Province of
South Vietnam on June 6, 1968.
|ARLINGTON, Va.-Sgt Maj.
Ronald Green presents burial flags to family
members of six Vietnam War casualties during a
repatriation service May 14, 2009. After 41
years, the remains of six Marines killed in
Vietnam were identified, repatriated and
interred in a group burial.
According to Prisoner of War and Missing
in Action Affairs officials, a CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter
was attempting an emergency extraction of Marines with 1st
Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, then
engaged with hostile forces. The aircraft was hit by enemy
ground fire, crashed and rolled down a steep hillside,
killing 12 of the 23 crewmen and passengers on board.
Initially, the remains of eight Marines, including Morelos
and Flores, were recovered and identified leaving only four
Marines unaccounted for and presumed dead.|
From June 20 to July 15, 2006, a joint U.S. and Vietnam
investigation team began excavating the suspected crash site
and recovered human remains, including an identification tag
for LaPlant. While at the site, a Vietnamese national turned
over human remains to the team that he claimed to have found
amid the wreckage of a U.S. helicopter.
In May 2007, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command in
Honolulu started the identification process of the recovered
remains. During the analysis, teeth were matched to Flores
and Morelos using their radiographs and bitewings. JPAC also
identified remains of Palacios and LaPlant. However, they
were unable to individually identify any of the remains
belonging to Harper or Sanchez.
Honoring their service and commitment to their brothers in
arms, the families of Morelos and Flores requested the
unidentified remains be placed with them in a group burial.
Honors were rendered and burial flags were presented to each
family during the service as a final salute to the sacrifice
made by each Marine.
Col. Daniel A. Pinedo, a nephew of Morelos who escorted the
remains from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command in
Honolulu, told family members how Morelos “was the youngest
of the aunts and uncles and I was the oldest (at age 12) of
the nieces and nephews, so naturally we had a bond.”
Some of the other individuals present at the ceremony also
reflected on memories shared with the fallen.
The event gave them closure, because the family members know
they're “with their fellow Marines here at home and in our
hearts,” said Rev. Robert Finnamore who presided over the
Article and photo by Marine Cpl. Scott Schmidt
Headquarters Marine Corps
Marine Corps News
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