The Pentagon website occasionally has news releases announcing that remains of soldiers, sailors and airmen missing from America’s wars of the 20th century have been recovered and identified.
One in particular from the Vietnam War struck me – Army Chief Warrant Officer George A. Howes of Knox, Ind., an Army helicopter pilot who had been based at Chu Lai, South Vietnam, and went missing on Jan. 10, 1970.
My cousin Nicky Venditti was also an Army warrant officer and helicopter
pilot based at Chu Lai. He died there six months earlier, on July 15, 1969.
The Pentagon said Howes and three crew members were returning to the Chu Lai base aboard a UH-1C Huey helicopter, encountered bad weather and went down over Quang Nam Province. There was no sign of the crew.
In 1989, Vietnam turned over boxes of bones. Years of investigations followed. In 2006, remains of three of the four men were identified and buried. Later, new technology led to Howes’ identification. He was buried last month in Arlington National Cemetery.
Nicky, of Malvern, Pa., died just 11 days after his arrival in South Vietnam.
He was with the 16th Combat Aviation Group, attached to the Americal
Division. An instructor’s grenade went off during his orientation at Chu Lai,
fatally wounding him and fellow pilot Billy Vachon of Portland,Maine.
Recovery efforts like the one that brought Howes home serve as a link across time, a reminder of loss. Though he, Nicky and Billy did not die at the hands of the enemy, their sacrifice was no less than that of those who fell to hostile fire.