A LETTER ABOUT THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER
is an open letter sent via me to the family of Michael Blassie, a lieutenant
in the Air Force who was shot down over Vietnam in 1972. For 26 years,
his body remained unidentified; for the past 14 of those years, Blassie
was the Vietnam Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. DNA tests
in June finally confirmed his identity, and his remains were returned last
week to St. Louis, where he grew up and went to school. The letter is from
a sergeant first class in the Army:
"My name is Dennis J. McMahon III from Pittsburgh, Pa. I have been in the U.S. Army since 1984 and am currently stationed in Japan. From 1986 to 1987 I had the privilege of guarding the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington Cemetery. Believe it or not, I got to `know' the four unknowns. I spent countless hours guarding them and talking to them. To this day, it is not only a highlight of my military career, but one of the highlights of my life.
"I was glad to hear that they have identified your son, Michael. I have read some article saying that the tomb is above just a single family's sacrifice. It is in some ways, but it was right to make the decision to identify your loved one. He represented all of the remaining unknowns with honor and dignity.
"I know you are proud of your son. He made the ultimate sacrifice. I enjoyed spending time with him. I just want to let you know that I can guarantee you (that during) the time he spent in Arlington, he was constantly being taken care of, and even spoken to. Hopefully this closes an empty hole in your family. I'm sure you will continue to take care of him. May he rest in peace."
SFC Dennis J. McMahon III