Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A Long Journey's End

Forty-six years ago today, Air Force Lieutenant Aado Kommendant was killed in action in Vietnam.  The plane he was piloting, a two-seat F-4C Phantom jet, was shot down over Song Be Province.  Kommendant had been in Vietnam for approximately one month at the time he was killed.  He was flying his 17th mission.  His crewmate on the jet, Lieutenant Charles Walling, was killed also.  Forty-six years ago tomorrow, Aado Kommendant would have celebrated his 25th birthday. 

Kommendant was promoted to Major at some point after 1979, which is when the Air Force officially declared him "Killed in Action".   He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal and the Purple Heart.   It was not until two years ago - almost forty-four years after his death - that his remains were found, which discovery was the result of the good, combined efforts of an American/Vietnamese excavation team.  [The POW/MIA Awareness web site has not been updated to reflect the fact that Major Kommendant's remains have been found but nevertheless offers a nice biography of him.]

Today at Arlington National Cemetery, his family shall have its long overdue opportunity to bid farewell to the long missing but never forgotten man who they had at one time feared was lost to them forever.  Kommendant, whose chance to grow old was taken from him three quarters of the world away from the Jersey Shore where he was born and raised, never married and never had any children.  From today forward however he shall have a "forever" home.  A place where his family, my family and your family can travel to and pay our respects. 

The road was long.  The road was winding.  To some degree at least, it has finally led him home.  May he rest in peace.  May his family as well.

-AK  

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