Saturday, October 18, 2014

A Different Kind of Homecoming

We are taught to understand, correctly, 
that courage is not the absence of fear,
but the capacity for action despite our fears.
- John McCain

Diana Young Long is seventy-one years old.  She and her husband reside in California, which is where the couple retired to several years ago after careers that spanned four decades.  

1st Lt. Herbert V. "Buddy" Young, Jr. never met his daughter Diana.  His wife and her mother, Zolleen Young, was pregnant with Diana when Lt. Young - who had volunteered for the U.S. Army Air Force after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor - was shipped off to World War II.  Lt. Young was assigned to the Pacific Theater where, as a member of the 321st Bombardment Squadron, 90th Bomber Group of the Fifth Air Force Command he accumulated approximately three hundred hours of flight time during the course of forty-three combat missions.  

On April 10, 1944, Lt. Young volunteered to fly as a co-pilot in a B-24D bomber with a crew that was down a man.  This crew needed a man and Lt. Young, whose plane was too damaged to fly, needed a plane.  The bomber, christened "Hot Garters", was shot down on its mission, over the jungles of New Guinea.   Crews of other bombers on the mission reported seeing five parachutes deploy as the plane spiraled downward.  

Lt. Young's body was not recovered from the crash site.  As per protocol, on April 11, 1945, one year and one day after he had last been reported alive, he was declared missing in action.  The declaration came slightly less than two months prior to what would have been his twenty-fifth birthday.  

Over the course of the past seventy years, repeated searches were undertaken to locate the remains of the "Hot Garters" and its crew.  Finally, in the Spring of 2014 the United States Army was able to positively identify remains unearthed during one of the expeditions as those of 1st Lt. Herbert V. "Buddy" Young, Jr., which news was met with tears from the daughter who never met him but who never abandoned the hope of bringing him home to her.  

On October 15, 2014, 1st Lt. Herbert V. "Buddy" Young, Jr. completed his long-overdue trip home.  He was interred at Prescott National Cemetery in Prescott, Arizona.  On his gravestone, simply and elegantly, it says "Killed in Action April 10, 1944.  Welcomed home October 15, 2014".  

Welcome home Lt. Young.  A grateful nation thanks you for your service.  More importantly, an ever-faithful, ever-loving daughter is simply happy to finally have her Dad home.  After seventy years.  

For the first time. 


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