LAKEWOOD, Wash. Declared missing in action during the Vietnam War, Air Force Capt. Douglas D. Ferguson returned home to Lakewood May 1 after 44 years.
Ferguson, an F-4D Phantom II pilot, was shot down over Laos in 1969.
Last year, members of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, excavated the Dec. 30, 1969 crash site in Southeast Asia and found remains and artifacts they believed were those of Ferguson, a Tacoma native and 1963 graduate of Woodrow Wilson High School.
Fergusons, said the captains sister, Sue Scott. She 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. Weve been working on this for more than 40 years.
Fergusons remains arrived at Sea-Tac International Airport on May 1. McChord Field Honor Guard members met the casket at the airplane and solemnly transferred it to the awaiting hearse.
A procession of vehicles transported Ferguson, state, local and JBLM police, family members and Patriot Guard Riders from the airport to the Mountain View Funeral Home and Memorial Park in Lakewood.
Along the route on Interstate 5, JBLM and Central Pierce County firefighters saluted from an overpass above, a huge U.S. flag draped from extended ladders on fire engines behind them.
Thats what makes me teary is that I feel like we are embraced by love, Scott later said, referring to the firefighters on the route.
The following day, hundreds of Fergusons family members, former classmates and JBLM service members and civilians, attended a service held at 627th Air Base Group, officiated by Chaplain (Maj.) John Shipman at the McChord Theater.
While I know that Capt. Fergusons family has been waiting for his return for more than 44 years, I have been waiting for nearly 28, Col. Anthony Davit, 627th ABG commander said. As a cadet at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., he 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 the U.S. military value of never leaving fellow warriors behind, and on all those people across the decades who helped return her brother to his home and family. She was visibly moved at the number of those who came to show their support.
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 Mountain Home Memorial Park, a cemetery in Lakewood, 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. Thats what blows me away.