At Cecil Field’s memorial to those missing in action and prisoners of war, 16 Cecil Field pilots who were marked as MIA are honored beside a chapel and under towering trees all with trunks painted yellow.

For the families of service members that never made it home, every day brings the hope of answers.

One family received word in May later explaining their loved ones remains were identified when a single tooth was found in Vietnam now 42 years later, according to a Florida Times-Union report.

Times Union: Family still looking for answers after tooth of Cecil Field pilot found in Vietnam

The tooth belonged to Cecil Field pilot Lt. Cmdr. Larry R. Kilpatrick, missing in action during the Vietnam War. As of June, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency reports 82,334 military personnel unaccounted for from all past U.S. conflicts. From World War II, 72,906 people have not been located; 1,597 remain missing from the Vietnam War.

At Cecil Field’s memorial to those missing in action and prisoners of war, 16 Cecil Field pilots who were marked as MIA are honored beside a chapel and under towering trees all with trunks painted yellow.

Cynde Covington of Jacksonville’s father is one of the 16 named along the ‘Hero’s Walk of Freedom Trees.’ She was 12 years old when Navy Commander Fred Wright deployed to Vietnam and never returned home to Cecil Field.

It would be 20 years later in 1992 when she said U.S. officials confirmed the Vietnamese government was releasing her father’s remains.

“For me, it’s not just about what happened in my family, it’s about the fact that if we are going to ask young men and women to go and defend our country… they need to know that we will do anything and everything to bring them home,” Covington said. “If they are not alive, then to bring their remains and let their families know what happened to them.”

Covington is a member of a board working to complete a National POW MIA Memorial and Museum on 26 acres leased from the City of Jacksonville.

The memorial will display the over 82,000 names of POW/MIA from all branches of the military.

Pam Cain of Sarasota who works with the League of Families looks forward to the future museum becoming a destination for families like hers across the country.

“It will be a place of peace and to show hope and to show our country, should something happen to anyone in the armed forces, ‘we’re not going to forget them,'” Cain said. “It’s our nation’s promise to anyone who signs on that dotted line.”

Cain’s father, Col. Oscar Mauterer, was listed as missing in action after reports his plane was shot down in 1966. She said his comrades saw him parachute away from the plane crash site, however his remains have not yet been located.

“I have vivid memories of him, he was very involved in my life,” Cain said. “To this day I work to bring him home.”

Cain said she doesn’t use the word ‘closure’ for those whose loved ones are identified, but she said answers can help a family heal.

“We are still grieving, part of our lives is still missing,” Cain said. “You’ve got this ongoing hole in your heart because there is no resolution. You don’t know what their fate was.”


WTLV First Coast News

Author: Julia Jenae
 
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