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Over the next month three men who were lost a long time ago in Vietnam and Laos, who were listed among the missing in action, will finally be laid to rest in home ground. Two of these men were with 3rd Recon Battalion, 3rd Marines and were lost in the same incident in June of 1967. One was a Marine, LCpl Merlin Allen, the other, Navy Hospital Corpsman, HM3 Michael Judd. The third man is Major Larry James Hanley, who was shot down over Laos in 1969.
Merlin Allen will be buried in his family plot on York Island in Lake Superior near Bayfield, Wisconson on June 29th. HM3 Michael B. Judd will be buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery on July 15th. Major Larry James Hanley, my brother-in-law's first cousin, will be laid to rest, finally, in his hometown if Walla Walla, Washington on July 13th. Each one of these young men, gave their last full measure of their lives for the nation while serving in Vietnam. These men, listed as MIA's, were lost to us for over 40 years, but they have been found and they are finally coming home to their families and to the nation. Their families remember them in their youthfulness. They have missed them, have carried the weight of their loss in their hearts for four decades, without having had the opportunity to feel that closure that comes with being able to see them put to ground, to drop a handful of dirt over their coffins, to say goodbye and begin the process of healing. These families have borne the wounds of their loss without that closer for many, indeed, too many years.
It has taken a long time, but these men have been found thanks to the persistant work of the Joint POW/MIA Command, which carries out 90-100 missions a year to find those who have been listed as MIA in all of the nations wars. They are coming home and each of their families will finally be able to put their lost warriors to rest. They will finally have them at home within the circle of family and friends. They will be able to visit them in those quiet grounds where each will be buried. They will finally know where they are.
Let us keep these families in our thoughts and prayers over the next month. I will be attending the funeral for Major Larry James Hanley on July 13, 2013 with the rest of his family. We are all happy to have him home and though we will, once again, shed our tears of loss and sadness, we will also share our sense of relief that he is finally "at home" and we will recount our pride in who he was and what he did.
To Merlin Allen, Michael Judd, and Larry James Hanley we say, "Welcome home brothers. Rest in Peace!"