Family puts father to rest 45 years after he was shot down in Vietnam
For Michael and Jeff Walling, it was a special Father's Day moment.
They had traveled from Phoenix, Arizona, with their families, to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, to honor their father, Lieutenant Colonel Charles Walling.
"We couldn't ask for a better Father's Day", says Jeff Walling.
The Walling's visit comes after an urgent phone call last Christmas, from Air Force Mortuary Affairs personnel.
"They positively identified my father's remains through DNA, that was given by our aunt", says Michael Walling.
It was the end of forty-five years of wondering, hoping, and waiting.
A burden that had weighed on this family since August 8, 1966.
That was the day that Charles Walling was shot down in Vietnam, about 35 miles northwest of Saigon. He's been listed as missing in action ever since.
"Father's Day has always been a hollow day for us", Michael Walling says. "We've been to the wall many, many times. It's always been exceedingly emotional and intense."
A 1994 joint U.S.-Vietnamese military excavation of the crash site recovered Charles Walling's dog tag, and some debris.
But a second excavation, in 2010, uncovered enough human remains to try DNA testing. .
Eighteen months later, the remains were positively identified as Walling's.
"It was like a weight was lifted off my back", says Michael Walling. "I could actually laugh with my family. I could enjoy the moment".
This past Friday, 100 members of the Walling family gathered at Arlington National Cemetery, to witness Charles Walling's final resting place.
"I'm very at peace now, it's just amazing", says Jeff Walling. "He was laid to rest with all the dignity and honor that he deserved, a true hero and patriot that he was."
And so, the Wallings returned to 'The Wall', Father's Day afternoon, to give thanks.
A celebration of a beloved father, now home.
One family, bound by hope, and love, and remembrance.
"The one thing I know for sure is that Chuck would be very proud of his sons, and the families they have raised", says John Walling, Charles' brother. .
Lisa Walling, Jeff's wife, says the family never gave up.
"Deep down in our souls, we always had hope."
Would you like to contribute to this story? Join the discussion.