By Tech Sgt. Sean Tobin, 62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs / Published May 09, 2014
Members of the McChord Field Honor Guard transfer the remains of Capt. Douglas D. Ferguson to an awaiting hearse May 1, 2014, at Seattle-Tacoma Airport in SeaTac, Wash. Ferguson, a native of Tacoma, Wash., had been missing since his aircraft was shot down over Laos Dec. 30, 1969. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Sean Tobin)
Central Pierce and Joint Base Lewis-McChord firefighters salute the procession of Capt. Douglas D. Ferguson's remains May 1, 2014, on an overpass in Tacoma, Wash. Ferguson, a Tacoma native, was killed while on a reconnaissance mission over Laos when his aircraft was shot down Dec. 30, 1969. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Sean Tobin)
Col. Anthony Davit salutes as he presents an encased flag to Sue Scott, the sister of Capt. Douglas D. Ferguson, May 2, 2014, in Lakewood, Wash. Ferguson's F-4D aircraft was shot down over Laos in 1969, and his remains were returned home after being missing for more than 44 years. Davit is the 627th Air Base Group commander. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Sean Tobin)
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. (AFNS) --
Missing for more than 44 years, the remains of Capt. Douglas D. Ferguson, who was killed when his F-4D Phantom aircraft was shot down over Laos in 1969, returned home May 1 to Lakewood, Washington.
Last year, members of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command excavated the Dec. 30, 1969, crash site in Laos and found remains and artifacts they believed were those of Ferguson.
Through DNA testing and a dental records match, JPAC officials were able to positively identify the remains as being Ferguson's, said the captain's sister, Sue Scott, who was notified of the DNA match in January.
"When I received word of the positive identification, I wanted to shout it from the rooftops," Scott said. "We've been working on this for more than 40 years."
Ferguson's remains arrived at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in SeaTac, Washington, May 1. McChord Field Honor Guard members met the casket at the airplane and ceremoniously transferred it to the awaiting hearse.
A procession of vehicles, including Ferguson's hearse, police vehicles from Joint Base Lewis-McChord as well as state and local agencies, family members, and Patriot Guard Riders, left the SeaTac airport bound for the funeral home.
From a freeway overpass along the route, firefighters from JBLM and Central Pierce County, shadowed by a large U.S. flag draping down from the extended ladders of their fire engines, saluted the procession as it passed below them.
"That's what makes me teary is that I feel like we are embraced by love," Scott later said, referring to the firefighters on the procession route.
The following day, 627th Air Base Group Chaplain (Maj.) John Shipman held a funeral service for Ferguson at the McChord Theater. Hundreds of family members, former classmates of Ferguson, and members of JBLM attended the service. Col. Anthony Davit, the 627th ABG commander, provided opening remarks.
"While I know that Captain Ferguson's family has been waiting for his return for more than 44 years, I have been waiting for nearly 28," Davit told those in attendance, referring to his time as a cadet in college where he always wore a POW/MIA patch on his flight suit. "I would often think about all the sacrifices those that came before me had made, and in many cases, may still be making. These thoughts guided my growing desire to serve and uphold the legacy of the great men and women that came before me."
Scott reflected on all the people over the decades who have helped her brother return home, and those who came to show their support once he finally did come home.
"I am so grateful," Scott said. "This is the best of who we are as Americans."
Ferguson was buried with full military honors later that day at the funeral home, in a plot just a few feet from where his parents are buried.
"There have been ups and downs over the years for sure," Scott said. "But the process has allowed me to meet the people who honor our country, not just with their service, but those who continue to give and give. That's what blows me away."