SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (AP) — Two months after his remains were exhumed from the Tomb of the Unknown, Air Force Lieutenant Michael Blassie returned home today for a final time.
A C-130 cargo plane carrying his casket arrived at Scott Air Force Base near Blassie's hometown of St. Louis.
Six members of an Air Force honor guard carried the flag-draped casket from the plane to a hearse as members of Blassie's family watched and wept quietly.
“All of a sudden, it's as if no time has passed,” said Blassie's sister Pat Blassie. “We're grieving all over again.”
Several hundred people — a mix of civilians and members of the military — saluted or held their hands over their hearts during the brief ceremony.
Family members then followed the gold-colored hearse to a funeral home for a private memorial service this afternoon.
A memorial Mass was to be celebrated tonight at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church in suburban St. Louis, where Blassie's mother, Jean F. Blassie, is a member.
A graveside service was scheduled for Saturday morning at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery. An honor guard will fire a 21-gun salute and F-15 Eagle fighters will roar overhead in a “missing man” flyover.
Blassie was killed May 11, 1972, when his plane was shot down while making a low-level bombing run in South Vietnam. He was 24.
For the past year, Pat Blassie had crusaded for the disinterment, convinced that evidence that had recently come to light — including Blassie's wallet and dog tags found near the crash site — suggested the remains were those of her brother. In May, the remains were exhumed, 14 years after they were placed in the grave at Arlington National Cemetery.
Last month, DNA tests that were not available 26 years ago confirmed the remains were Blassie's.
He will be laid to rest beneath lush bluegrass and fescue in Jefferson Barracks cemetery's oldest section, established in 1826 alongside the original military post.
Blassie will get the standard headstone — a simple, 2-foot-high piece of white Georgia marble rounded at the top.
“I picked out a nice place for Lieutenant Blassie,” cemetery superintendent Ralph Church said.
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Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard