Vietnam Veteran Goes Home, 37 Years After His Death

Navy Lieutenant Commander Brian Danielson
Navy Lieutenant Commander Brian Danielson
Mary Danielson
Mary Danielson
Maj. Ben Danielson
Maj. Ben Danielson

HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE (KHNL) - An Air Force veteran goes home to rest in peace, almost 38 years after he was shot down in Vietnam.

Air Force Major Ben Danielson served as a fighter pilot in the Vietnam War.

"Very brave," remembered his wife Mary Danielson. "Certainly the sunshine of my life."

Snipers shot down his plane in December of 1969. Even after one of the largest rescue efforts in U.S. military history, teams could not find Major Danielson's body.

"I heard a knock on the door in the hall," recalled Mary Danielson. "And I went out and all I saw was Air Force blue, and I knew."

Their son Brian was a baby. He grew up hearing stories about his dad and followed in his footsteps.

"About how well he had accomplished his goals and done the things that he wanted, and was a good guidance for me to try and do what I wanted to try and do as well," said Navy Lieutenant Commander Brian Danielson.

For more than 30 years, Major Danielson was classified as missing in action. But in 2003, recovery teams found remains near the crash site. Last year, his son Brian took a trip there.

"Getting to go to Laos and getting to see first hand as a family member, was really an amazing experience because now I got to see the full effort and see how that works, and see the challenges," said Lt. Commander Danielson.

Military experts working here in Hawaii made a positive ID last December, and now after 37 years, Major Danielson is going home.

"There's a peacefulness that says he gets to come home," said Mary Danielson.

And Lt. Commander Danielson has waited all his life to say this to his dad:

"Welcome home. I think that's the best thing we can say for this."

The Danielson family will leave for Minneapolis tomorrow, where Major Danielson will be laid to rest.

About 88,000 U.S. service members are classified as missing in action, most of them from World War II.