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M.I.A. No More: Vietnam Navy Pilot Buried With Full Honors

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(credit: CBS) Bill Hudson
Bill Hudson has been with WCCO-TV since 1989. The native of Elk Rive...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Vietnam Veterans make up a sizable portion of the motorcycle riding Patriot Guard. It’s no surprise that more than 100 of them would ride their bikes in a long formation into the Fort Snelling National Cemetery. They would soon dismount and stand at attention with American flags in hand.

Their impressive and patriotic presence was in honor of a fellow veteran — long missing but never forgotten.

Lt. William Swanson was 27 years old when the Brooklyn Center native went missing during the Vietnam War. He was on an armed reconnaissance mission somewhere over Laos. But on April 11, 1965, his Navy Skyraider was hit by anti-aircraft fire and crashed into the dense jungle.

For nearly five decades, Swanson was among Vietnam’s Missing in Action, until the crash site was excavated in 2010. While on an earlier recovery mission in 2000, a joint U.S and Lao team was investigating another crash site when villagers told them about a second one nearby.

In 2009, a follow-up mission located material evidence but still no remains. One year later, searchers recovered human remains and additional evidence of the navy plane.

For younger brother, Robert Swanson, the Fort Snelling memorial service ends decades of painful mystery for the family.

“Forty-seven years ago when this all happened, we didn’t expect this day was ever going to occur,” he said.

Three F-16 fighter jets flew the traditional missing man formation overhead. Two large United States flags were neatly and precisely unfurled and folded into the triangular shapes, which get presented to a veteran’s surviving loved ones.

After that presentation to brother Bob and sister Peggy, the playing of taps pierced the Fort Snelling solitude.

Swanson’s parents never knew what became of their son. Long after their deaths, their son was still listed as missing in action. Now, the MIA bracelets once worn by total strangers were taken off and presented to the family, to become a treasured part of their long awaited closure.

“What a wonderful tribute for all people,” said Swanson’s younger sister, Peggy Ricker. “Yes, we want Vietnam vets honored and remembered as they should have been.”

A son, a brother and a Vietnam war hero is finally home — and bringing long sought peace to a proud family.

Governor Mark Dayton has ordered all U.S. flags and Minnesota flags to be flown at half-staff on Tuesday, from sunrise until sunset, in honor of Lt. Swanson.

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