Vietnam War hero, state resident, finally comes home

It took more than 40 years but U.S. Army Spec. John L. Burgess has finally come home.

Missing since June 30, 1970, Burgess, along with two members of his crew whose partial remains had been previously recovered – 1st Lt. Richard Dyer of Central Falls, R.I., and Sgt. 1st Class Juan Colon-Diaz of Comerio, Puerto Rico. – was laid to rest recently at Arlington National Cemetery.

According to an Associated Press story, they were among five soldiers aboard a helicopter that crashed near the Cambodian border in June 30, 1970. Burgess, from Sutton Bay, Mich., was the crew chief during that “command and control” mission in South Vietnam. Only one soldier survived, AP reported.

After the crash, the military recovered and returned the partial remains of three of the soldiers killed to their respective families. Burgess’ family never received remains, as none were identified.

According to records by the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association, a more thorough search of the site was requested, but never conducted because of enemy presence in the area, stated AP.

For 20 years, more than a dozen joint U.S./ Socialist Republic of Vietnam teams investigated the crash. They recovered human remains, personal effects, and aircraft wreckage and were able to account for Burgess using “forensic and circumstantial evidence.”

Until very recently, Burgess was one of 807 Vietnam-era Americans unaccounted for in South Vietnam, said AP.

We salute the people who worked so long and so hard to recover the remains.

To Burgess’ family – a surviving son received his father’s flag during the burial ceremony – we add our heartfelt thanks to those of a grateful nation.

Another Vietnam War hero has finally come home.