My older brother, Jim, was my hero and my favorite family member. He always had time for me, and was very affirming and approving. He and I were more alike in manner, interests and temperament than with our younger brother and sister. He had a dry sense of humor and took care of his three younger siblings. I treasure memories of Sunday afternoons in the workshop with him and summers at my grandparents’ home in Kansas.
Because he chose to attend Texas Technological University in Lubbock, Texas, I enrolled in the same school two years later. He was there when I was lonely and always took me with him when he went home for weekends and holidays. I especially missed him when he graduated and entered the Air Force as a second lieutenant, but I rejoiced in the realization of his life-long dream to fly. I wrote him often, sent Christmas goodies to him, and treasured letters from him.
His very successful career as an Air Force pilot ended when his F4E Phantom jet fighter bomber went down on Jan. 3, 1971, in Southeast Asia. Information about the crash was minimal, and my inquiries to family members about details of Jim’s situation were answered with brief, impatient, one-word responses. In the midst of this lack of information, I held to the thought that surely, one day, we would have details about my brother and his co-pilot. I felt that the closeness he and I had as we grew up would not be lost forever, that through all these years, God would sustain me, that God had not forgotten us.
In the hope of gaining a more detailed account of my brother’s status, I requested that my name be added to the Air Force list of families of Missing-in-Action servicemen. One of these letters announced a Family Member Update Meeting in Dallas, on Jan. 11, 2007. With the help of my older daughter, I made plans to attend the meeting.
At the meeting that cold winter day, I was warmly greeted by the Joint POW-MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) personnel. One of the first items on the agenda was the need for DNA samples from persons of the maternal line. My mother had provided a DNA sample several years prior to this time, but neither she nor my sister-in-law had shared with me the need for this information. Here, at last, was something I could do for Jim’s case!
That day, I received all the information the Air Force had at that time, giving me accurate details about my brother’s plane crash. The JPAC personnel conducting the meeting were the most caring, capable, and dedicated persons I have ever met.
As I returned home that day, I thought to myself, “Even if I never know anything else about my brother’s plane crash, I at least know the facts, and I have done my part by providing a sample of my DNA.”
Then, less than six months later, the Air Force called to say that, because of my DNA sample, positive identification of Jim and his co-pilot had been made. We would have a memorial service with full military honors in Pampa, TX, later that summer.
At last, after thirty-six years, my brother was home! We knew that he and his co-pilot died in the plane crash, and that neither suffered in a prison camp, nor had they succumbed in the dense Southeast Asian jungle.
I truly believe that God cares about me, that He knows me and my needs, and He sustained and enabled me, gave me the strength, determination and courage to do what needed to be done to bring closure to Jim’s Missing-in-Action status. All this was done in God’s time, according to His plan and what was best for me and my family.
The brother, who I had so loved and enjoyed, was now home, and I had, with God’s help, assisted in making that possible.
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