Washington, D.C. –
Returning an American hero home : The Boyer funeral
By U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Leah Ferrante, DPAA
Arlington National Cemetery— It was 1968, the prime of the Vietnam War. U.S. service members made their way to the battlefield to ensure America remained the greatest country in the world. With that great pride came great sacrifice, and thousands of members paid the ultimate price in the name of freedom.
Families waited faithfully for a letter, or reassurance their loved ones would be returning home- sadly in many cases that reassurance never came. Still, families remained faithful that one day the call would come saying, “We found him.” The painful wait was now over for the family of U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Alan L. Boyer, as he was found and brought to be laid to rest on American soil after 48 years as being labeled Missing In Action. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery, June 22.
“Alan went missing during a top secret mission in Laos on March 28, 1968,” said Judi Boyer-Bouchard sister of Alan Boyer. “Over the last 48 years they have conducted investigations and excavations without finding anything, but early this year in March I received a call saying they [The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency] found the remains.”
Boyer was a member of Spike Team Asp, an 11-man reconnaissance team assigned to Military Assistance Command, Vietnam - Studies and Observations Group (MACV-SOG,) conducting a classified reconnaissance mission in Savannakhet Province, Laos, March 28, 1968, when the team was attacked by enemy forces and requested extraction. Due to the rugged terrain, the U.S. Air Force CH-3 extraction helicopter was forced to use a ladder in an attempt to recover the team. The helicopter came under heavy fire, and after recovering seven Vietnamese team members, began pulling away. Reports indicated that Boyer began climbing the ladder, which broke as the helicopter pulled away, sending him falling to the ground. The other two Americans on the team and the remaining Vietnamese commando, while at one point were last seen on the ground, may also have started climbing the ladder when it broke. Four days later, a search team was inserted into the area, but found no evidence of the missing team members.
Multiple investigations and three excavations were conducted by U.S. and Lao teams in search of the missing service members, unfortunately with no prevail. However, years later, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency received remains from unnamed citizens of Laos . DPAA and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, used mitochondrial DNA analysis, finding one set of remains belonged to Boyer. Further testing confirmed the identification when the DNA was a match to Boyer’s mother and sister.
Boyer was buried with full military honors, and will forever be laid to rest surrounded by his brother and sisters in arms in the Arlington National Cemetery, including his best friend U.S. Army 1st Lt. Loren Hagen who is buried a few plots away from Boyer’s final resting place.
“The funeral was more than I ever dreamed it could be,” said Boyer-Bouchard. “I have no blood relatives, so initially I thought who would come after 48 years?”
The funeral was a huge success with over 100 attendees present to celebrate the life of one of America’s fallen heroes.
“To my surprise people had come from all over,” said Boyer-Bouchard. “Alan’s high school friends and fraternity brothers, current special operations soldiers, and strangers were all there after all these years-I was just so overwhelmed.”
Today, there are 1,618 American service members still unaccounted for from the Vietnam War. It is DPAA’s mission to provide the fullest possible accounting for our missing personnel to their families and the nation.
“I extend my heartfelt thanks for your prayers and support for Alan and my family for so many years. Special thanks to those dedicated and committed to pursuing the fullest possible accounting for Americans still missing from the Vietnam War.” Judi Boyer-Bouchard.