U.S. Soldiers Buried More Than 20 Years After Vietnam Mission
ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) _ Four American soldiers were buried Friday, more than 20 years after their helicopter disappeared during a night mission in Vietnam.
The Army says it still doesn’t know whether the helicopter crashed into a mountain or was destroyed by enemy gunfire. But the men’s remains were released by Vietnam in 1989, and the military held an official funeral at Arlington National Cemetery.
″The void will always be there because I lost my son,″ said Wilma Vanden Eykel. ″But I’m glad that instead of wandering the jungles for 20 years he is with the Lord.″
The remains of her son, Martin D. Vanden Eykel II of Wheaton, Ill., were buried with those of William D. Sanderlin of Fort Worth, Texas, Michael H. Shanley Jr. of La Mesa, Calif., and William C. Dunlap of Tucson, Ariz.
An Army band marched to the grave, leading the horse-drawn caisson that carried the casket. On an otherwise cool and cloudy day, the sun suddenly appeared as the band leader raised his baton for ″Amazing Grace″ and the mourners settled in velvet-covered chairs.
The chaplain, Lt. Col. John W. Morrison, said a short prayer and blessed the casket. A group of soldiers fired three loud volleys, and a bugler followed with ″Taps.″
On Dec. 2, 1969, Vanden Eykel and the other soldiers were aiding American ground troops by firing flares during night combat. Another helicopter on the same mission warned that both aircraft had to change course to avoid a mountain.
Vanden Eykel, 26 at the time, said he felt dizzy. He acknowledged the warning, but his helicopter soon disappeared. It was never found despite a four-day search.
Vietnam returned 25 sets of American remains in January 1989. The identities of Dunlap, a chief warrant officer, and Sanderlin, a staff sergeant, were confirmed through dental records.
Vanden Eykel, a chief warrant officer, and Shanley, a sergeant, were never positively identified. But two months ago, a military board ruled that the men’s remains were among those of Dunlap and Sanderlin.
″There’s no question in my mind,″ said Mrs. Vanden Eykel, a resident of Colleyville, Texas. ″They could not make this up. This is for real.″