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When you have lost someone, it seems like all you have are anniversaries. The date of their death is a sad day. Their birthday becomes a somber day. It is the anniversary of their birth and reminds you that they are gone.

Unfortunately, when the loved one is MIA (missing in action), there is so much that is unknown. You are not always sure that the "presumed" date of death is correct, and often there is a feeling that maybe they are alive. With that small hope, there might be fear about how they are being treated if they still live. It is worrisome not to know.

I Got The News Today (IGTNT) is one of the oldest continuous series on Daily Kos. It is a way for our community to pay respect to those who have died as a result of war.
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Tonight, we are honoring Staff Sergeant Lawrence Woods who, after almost 50 years, is finally being laid to rest. His family has him home at last. While they still mourn, the uncertainty is past and they have the yearned for closure.

Staff Sergeant Lawrence Woods

Lawrence Woods was born on March 18th of 1925. He joined the US Army and became a Staff Sergeant with the 5th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces. He was living in Clarksville, Tennessee with his wife, Francis, and their three young children. US military involvement in Vietnam had started to escalate when in 1963, Staff Sergeant Woods was deployed to the region.

On October 24th, 1964, Woods was 39 years of age. He and seven others were aboard a Fairchild C-123 "Provider" aircraft that was resupplying the ground troops from the US Special Forces camp at Bu Prang, Vietnam.

Also aboard the flight were US Air Force service members Captain Valmore W. Bourque, 1st Lieutenant Edward J. Krukowiski, 1st Lieutenant Robert G. Armstrong, Staff Sergeant Ernest J. Halvorson, Staff Sergeant Theodore B. Phillips, Airman First Class Eugene Richardson and US Army Private First Class Charles P. Sparks.

The aircraft went down when it was struck by enemy fire near the Cambodian border. Shortly after the crash, US forces arrived and recovered bodies, but they could not locate Woods. The remains for seven crew members were identified and those men were laid to rest.

At home in Tennessee, Mrs. Woods got a telegram stating that her husband was missing. She received another in 1965 that said he was presumed dead. An article on Chattanoogan.com states:
Lisa Szymanski was only 13 years old when her father was declared missing.  “He was a really good dad with a beautiful sense of humor and I remember he was always helping people,” Ms. Szymanksi said.  “The memories are flooding back as we prepare for this time of closure.”
Over the years, Francis Woods raised the children as a single mom. She died in 1994, before any news of her husband's whereabouts was heard. Two of the Woods children express how they thought they might never know what had happened to their father, as quoted at the Military Times site:
“I still can’t comprehend that this is really happening,” Szymanski said. “God, I really thought I would die not knowing.

“What really hurt me, when I hung up the phone after talking to the lady from the casualty morgue, was thinking, ‘Oh, my God, he’s been in that plane all this time.’”


In Clarksville, Steve Woods, who was 7 years old the last time he saw his father, called Tuesday “the happiest day of my entire life.”

His front yard on Circle Drive is dominated by a memorial to his father with two flagpoles — one bearing the American flag and the other a black-and-white POW/MIA flag. It is a testament to the persistence of memory and the power of hope.

[The image is of Steve Woods]
In early 1997, a joint US/Kingdom of Cambodia team investigated the crash site and found it to be on the Vietnam side of the border. A joint U.S./Socialist Republic of Vietnam team surveyed the site in 1999, and confirmed that the wreckage correlated to a US C-123 Provider aircraft.

In 2009-2010, US and Vietnamese teams excavated the site, recovered human remains and additional evidence, including a metal identification tag from the aircraft’s commander.

Scientists from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command used forensic and circumstantial evidence to identify whose remains had been found at the site. Woods' family was informed in September of 2013 that remains had been confirmed to be those of Staff Sergeant Woods. Coincidentally, they were notified on a date close to National POW/MIA Recognition Day, which honors prisoners of war and those missing in action.

Today, just a few days after what would have been his 89th birthday, Staff Sergeant Lawrence Woods is being buried at Arlington. Another ceremony will be held in his hometown. According to the Leaf Chronicle:
CLARKSVILLE, TENN. — On Friday, March 21, as the remains of Vietnam-era Clarksville soldier Staff Sgt. Lawrence Woods are being laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery at 1 p.m. EST, a ceremony in his honor will be held simultaneously at noon CDT at Patriots Park.

The special memorial, which is open to the public, is being coordinated by the Vietnam Veterans and Legacy Veterans Motorcycle Club.

By order of Tenn. Governor Bill Haslam, who declared Friday a statewide Day of Mourning, flags over the State Capitol and all State office buildings will be flown at half-staff from sunrise to sunset in honor of Woods.
Lawrence Woods is survived by his daughter, Lisa C. Szymanski of Florida, son, Steven R. Woods of Tennessee, daughter, Deborah A. Secriskey of Tennesse., sister, Rozzellar Binieck, sister, Betty Jewel Tucker, sister, Ophelia Willoughby, and brother, William Woods, as well as six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

There are 1,642 American service members that are still unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War. According to the DPMO, more than 83,000 Americans are missing from World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War, the Vietnam War and the 1991 Gulf War. Our only known current Prisoner of War is Sergeant Bowe R. Bergdahl, who was captured by the Taliban in June of 2009.

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Helping our troops:

If you wish to assist our military and their families, consider contributing to Fisher House. Donating to Netroots for the Troops provides care packages that make a real difference in a military person's life. To assist the animal companions of our deployed military, information is available here. Also, you could visit:
Go to AnySoldier.com
When our veterans come back home, they need jobs. Look at the programs of Hire Heroes USA and Welcome Back Veterans to see if you can help out.
About the IGTNT series:
”I Got the News Today” is a diary series intended to honor, respect, and remember the fallen, and to remind us that each casualty has family and friends who received the terrible news that their loved one has died. US service members whose names have been released by the US Department of Defense will usually be diarized two days after the official announcement on the DoD website. This allows the IGTNT team to cover each person more fully, but still in a timely manner. Click the IGTNT tag below to see previous diaries in the series, which was begun by i dunno, and is maintained by i dunno, Sandy on Signal, Monkeybiz, Noweasels, Blue Jersey Mom, Chacounne, twilight falling, SisTwo, Spam Nunn, True Blue Majority, CalNM, Wide Awake in Kentucky, maggiejean, Jax Dem, The Fat Lady Sings, Ekaterin, & Joy of Fishes. These diaries are heartbreaking to write, but show our community’s respect for those who have died.
Please bear in mind that these diaries are read by friends and family of the service members mentioned here. May all of our remembrances be full of compassion rather than politics.

Originally posted to IGTNT on Fri Mar 21, 2014 at 05:25 PM PDT.

Also republished by Three Star Kossacks.

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