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Arlington burial for soldier killed in Vietnam helo crash

Jul. 2, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  

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ARLINGTON, VA. — A Vietnam soldier missing since his helicopter was shot down in 1970 was laid to rest Tuesday at Arlington National Cemetery.

Dozens of family members gathered to watch a horse-drawn caisson deliver the remains of Army Spc. John L. Burgess in a casket draped with the American flag.

Burgess of Sutton Bay, Mich., was buried in a single casket along with the remains representing 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.

They were among five soldiers aboard a helicopter that crashed near the Cambodian border in June 30, 1970. Burgess was the crew chief during that “command-and-control” mission in South Vietnam. Only one soldiersurvived.

After the crash, the military recovered and returned the partial remains of three of the deceased soldiers 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.

For 20 years, more than a dozen joint U.S.-Vietnamese 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.”

Richard L. Van Weezle, Burgess’s son, was at the ceremony to receive his father’s flag. Just before the American flag was folded, three rifle volleys were fired and a bugler played taps as the sun peeked out between the clouds, marking a burial with full military honors.

Until last week when his remains were identified, Burgess was one of 807 Vietnam-era Americans that the Pentagon says are unaccounted for in the area that was formerly South Vietnam, while many more are unaccounted for in what used to be North Vietnam and other parts of Southeast Asia.

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