The History Guy – 71st Assault Helicopter Company and Herby

WOW! This little story is huge, at least to me. Last week I received a Message from a friend sharing a video he saw on The History Guy YouTube channel. He was sure I probably had seen it but sent it anyway [I had not seen it].

My eyes were glued to the screen as The History Guy showed a Challenge Coin, the very one a Summer of ’69 Firebird sent to me a few months ago. “That’s the Firebird Challenge Coin,” I said to myself. He was telling the Firebird history, including my brother. As I kept watching my ears heard “Firebird Nine One” and “Captain Herbert C Crosby” which needless to say, honed in my senses to ear more as my eyes started tearing up.

Here is what I watched, and became overwhelmed when he mentions Herby and the website I have for him. I had wondered as to why “views” to his website had spiked considerably. Watch below video and you’ll know why also.

Had to share this awesome video with you all. It’s an excellent history of the 71st Assault Helicopter Company at ChuLai, and of course, the part about Herby, from Donalsonville, Georgia, is priceless to me.

Enjoy! #thehistoryguy, #firebird91, #71stahc

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Fifty-one Years…Oh My

Taken on the beach at Chu Lai, Vietnam 1969

So hard to believe it was 51 years ago today my brother, Capt. Herbert C Crosby, Firebird Nine One, and crew went down in Vietnam. Helicopter has still not been located, yet the remains of him and his crew made it back to American soil.

One crew member, a gunner, Wayne Allen, identified and buried in March 1991, was the first to return home. Sadly, no one, not even family of the crew, nor comrades were notified about his return. Our father died May 1991…would have been some glimmer of hope for my father had he known of Wayne’s status then. It wasn’t until many years later that anyone other than his family knew.

Then, in 2006, Herby (pilot of the gunship crew) and Francis Graziosi, were identified. It was Francis’s 19th birthday that January 10, 1970. His remains are buried in his hometown.

Herby’s remains, at the time of identification in 2006, was one tooth, and the actual dog tag he wore that tragic day. I wear his dog tag to every military event, and today…he goes with me. Then, in 2011, five more teeth and two bone shards were identified. His remains are buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Also in 2011, the remains of his co-pilot, Andy Howes, were identified, and buried in Arlington National Cemetery in August that year.

The crew is home…sadly, not the way we wanted, but they are home. We, their families, are blessed, as we are one of the lucky families…we got remains returned to us.

I can’t begin to write here of all the wonderful people, comrades, events, happenings, those divine appointments that have come about since Herby’s return. It’s amazing how much my life changed not only in 1970, when the terribly news arrived that he was Missing In Action, to when his remains were buried in 2007.

There are several stories in this website that give a glimpse of him, and of our family.

Today I remember my dear brother, my hero as a child (and still), and all the crew of Firebird Nine One.

Miss you Herby, but I thank you for the grand gifts you left me…your comrades, and all the connections across the world that you made. You’ve changed my life so much for the better…but I’d rather it been you came home alive.

Never give up hope and never forget our fallen warriors who are still Missing in Action. My prayers to my friends who are waiting word of their loved ones. May God Bless them all.

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Escorting the Traveling Wall to Wickham Park

3FD36BCA-6638-46F7-A846-FF091DB291E6Fabulous day. Rolling Thunder Florida Chapter One (RTFL1) members gathered at Kay’s BBQ in Cocoa for breakfast before heading to the staging area at Eastern Florida State College (EFSC) for the escort. Members of the Vietnamese Unforgettable Memories Foundation (VN3KT) joined our escort too! It was so good to see my new Vietnamese American friends who drove over  from Orlando to partake in this very special escort.

Charlie Donovan and MarylouI rode with Charlie Donovan on his beautiful blue Harley trike. I couldn’t believe the amount of bikers from so many different biker groups in the parking lot at EFSC. Everyone was assembled in designated areas waiting for the escort to begin which was around 10 a.m.

Reggie Lord and MarylouMy biker friend Reggie Lord was also there. I met Reggie at the 2010 Ride Home in Andersonville, GA. I rode with him to the National Museum of Prisoners of War at Andersonville National Cemetery. It was a weekend event honoring our Prisoners of War from all wars and the families of our Missing in Action soldiers. He was a former Rolling Thunder member, and avid supporter of everything POW/MIA. He’s the person who got me a ride in the 2017 Rolling Thunder Demonstration Ride, riding with the Gold Star families in Washington, DC.

There were hundreds, I’d say more likely  a 1,000+ bikers lined up to escort the Traveling Wall to Wickham Park for the Vietnam and All Wars Veterans Reunion.

The escort was awesome, truly. The word “awesome” is used so much, but to me, this day was truly an awesome day. Traffic was blocked by local city and county law enforcement all the way on US 1 from the college to Wickham Park. People lined the highway waving American and POW/MIA flags, gesturing the Peace hand sign, waving us on. It was so exciting.

American flag

American Flag at Entrance to Wickham Park

Turning into the park we rode underneath a huge American flag hoisted over the entrance. The escort meandered through the park to the area where the Traveling Wall would be assembled.

The park was filled with people and campers and RVs all gearing up for the week’s festivities. This is one, if not the largest veteran reunions in the country. As we dismounted the bikes, rested and refreshed I could see the people starting to unload the panels for the Wall.

7276133B-0C94-4BD5-8AD2-443AF0B0FAF9I noticed they were working on the West side of the Wall first…this is the side where Herby’s name, along with the names of Firebird Nine One’s crew, are listed on. He’s on panel 14W [West], line 22. I walked over to get a closer look as it appeared they must be getting close to panel 14, and sure enough, the next one to be installed was Panel 14. I mentioned to one of the guys installing it that my brother’s name is on this panel.  “Would you like to help install this panel?”

“Yes! I would love to. Thank you!” I was so touched that I got to help install his panel. It made my day. Truly, made my day. I didn’t plan on doing this. Timing just fit into place.

Our escort mission was completed, and my unexpected mission of assisting in installing Panel 14 was completed. I felt satisfied and so happy I decided to do this ride.

As I rode back to Cocoa with J.J. Justice (RTFL1 President) I felt so good about the whole experience. It makes my heart happy to ride with this group of people, the RTFL1, and be a part of setting up the Traveling Wall, especially installing Panel 14W.

I’ll be heading back Saturday, May 11, for the Missing Man Table Ceremony which our RTFL1 Chapter will be hosting. If you’re in the neighborhood do stop by our RTFL1 tent.

Never Forget.


Posted in Capt. Crosby, POW/MIA, Rolling Thunder, Salute, Stories, The Journal | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Gold Star 50th Vietnam Lapel Pin

Vietnamese Unforgettable Memories Foundation ladies with Marylou WadI was honored, and pinned, Sunday, April 28, by the Vietnamese Unforgettable Memories Foundation (VN3NK) from Orlando, at the Rolling Thunder Florida Chapter One monthly meeting. What an unexpected surprise.

It’s a beautiful lapel pin, which I will proudly wear in recognition of my brother, and all the 58,000+ who died in service in Vietnam.

I registered with VN3NK for a Viet Nam 50th Anniversary Gold Star lapel pin last month while working with them for the Viet Nam 50th Anniversary Commemoration held at Cape Canaveral National Cemetery. I had mentioned to H. D. (Hoan Doang) when it was approved to just give me a call or mail it to me.

The United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration established the Commemorative Partner Program, an organizationally-based, hometown-centric initiative to assist a grateful nation in thanking and honoring Vietnam veterans and their families where they live. The VN3NK is a registered Commemorative Partner with the Department of Defense, and therefore, officially honors and pins Viet Nam veterans and their families.

Certificates of Honor and lapel pins have been designed to honor and give special recognition to four categories of veterans and their families. One being “In Memory Of” which is the Gold Star version for immediate family members (parents, spouses, siblings, and children) of a veteran who is listed on the Viet Nam Veterans Memorial [The Wall] in Washington, D.C. A form is submitted to the Department of Defense which when approved, a Certificate of Honor and the 50th Anniversary Gold Star pin is sent to the Commemorative Partner (in this case VN3NK) who officially presents it to the recipient.

vietnam 50 gold star certificate of honor

Vietnam 50th Gold Star Lapel Pin and Certificate of Honor

The VN3NK is very special as their organization is comprised of ladies who escaped the Fall of Saigon in 1975 thanks to our soldiers and veterans. These ladies represent a full circle of what our soldiers were fighting for, freedom.

I remember the words my brother wrote in a letter home on his last birthday, May 30, 1969.

He wrote, “Nobody even said anything about it being Memorial Day. I guess that doesn’t count. All the men that have died over here you’d think somebody would say something about them. It kinda looks like people are ashamed because they died in this war that nobody wants. I don’t see it like that though. We’re fighting and they died for our country and the flag [freedom].

If something happened to me over here, I sure hate to think that people thought I died for no reason. You know what I mean. I’ve got 267 days left today.”

I can tell you all that not only did my brother NOT die in vain, but neither did any other Viet Nam veteran who lost their life in Viet Nam, or at home after service. The VN3NK ladies are living proof no one died in vain, as they have received freedom because of our Viet Nam veterans who saved their lives.

Christina Doa

Christina Doa, founder of VN3NK pinning Gold Star on Marylou

I was so thrilled, and touched deeply to receive this special Certificate of Honor and Gold Star pin from this very special group of ladies. Christina Doa, the founder of VN3NK pinned with me. Her brother served in Viet Nam on our side for the South Vietnamese Army as a helicopter pilot who was shot down in 1968. We have similar brother stories as my brother was also a helicopter pilot who went down in January 1970, MIA 37 years.

It’s truly an honor to know these ladies and their families. I was pleasantly surprised to see them standing in front of the Veterans Memorial Center as I approached the building for the Rolling Thunder meeting. When I saw them I realized why they were there, although I don’t know how they knew I was a Rolling Thunder member. I’ll have to ask. They also brought some delicious Vietnamese appetizers for break time during the meeting. Everyone at the meeting enjoyed meeting these gracious ladies, and their spouses, who were invited to several more local events which I hope they can attend to help spread their grateful thanks to our Viet Nam veterans and families.

gold star plapel pin

The Vietnam 50th Gold Star Lapel Pin just below the Gold Star lapel pin I received on behalf of the President at Herby’s funeral.

There is also a special Blue Star lapel pin and certificate of honor for a deceased Viet Nam Veteran’s surviving spouse. These are of a death of a veteran who served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces at any time during the period from November 1, 1955 to May 15, 1975, regardless of location.

If you would like your deserved Vietnam 50th Anniversary Gold Star or Blue Star recognition certificate and pin, please contact the Vietnamese Unforgettable Memories Foundation at their Facebook site. You may also email or call 407.489.2936.


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Vietnam 50th Anniversary Commemoration 2019

Vietnam 50th Anniversary CCNC

The ceremony was opened with a Huey helicopter flyover (hat tip to Brevard County Sheriffs Office), the most iconic symbol of the Vietnam War. Every Vietnam veteran felt some relief when hearing the sound of a Huey coming their way while in Vietnam. The rhythmic thumping of its rotor blades is unmistakable.

Huey flyover

A UH-1C Huey helicopter does a flyover during Saturday’s commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War ceremony at Cape Canaveral National Cemetery. Courtesy Florida TODAY

The Huey was so much more to a Vietnam solider than just a helicopter: it was a friend, a lifesaver, and a brother-in-arms. What a perfect way to open this event. “A big shout out to all the Vietnam veterans, your families, and friends who are here today.  Thank you for your service and sacrifices. We really are a grateful nation, from sea to shining sea.”

I was chair for this year’s Vietnam 50th event, which turned out to be a beautiful event, thanks to all the volunteers on our 50th Committee. Super job team!

For those of you who don’t know, I am a Volunteer for the Support Committee at Cape Canaveral National Cemetery. My trade is graphic design, so this is what I mostly do for CCNC. I also work at the front desk once a month. Our all-volunteer Support Committee assists the cemetery staff for all the major events held at the cemetery, along with reception/office work as needed. The Cape Canaveral Ladies are also part of our Support Committee.

This year’s Vietnam 50th was the largest so far…every year attendance gets a larger and larger. It really turned out to be a super event.

kushner and wade

Hal Kushner and Marylou Wade – Vietnam 50th at Cape Canaveral National Cemetery

Our guest speaker was Hal Kushner, a former Vietnam Prisoner of War for five and a half years. Hal doesn’t speak of his ordeal much so I was honored that he accepted my invitation to be our Speaker for this event. You see, Hal spent five and a half years as POW with a friend of mine, Frank Anton. Frank was from the same 71st Assault Helicopter Company that my brother served in. Frank was already captured [1968] when my brother arrived in Vietnam [1969], so Herby never personally knew him, although he certainly knew of him. I am a member of Herby’s comrades’ association, the Rattler-Firebird Association, and through the Association I came to know Frank. Frank also lives in the same county in Florida as I. It was through Frank, and reading his book, “Why Didn’t You Get Me Out” that I learned of Dr. Kushner.

Hal Kushner was captured 2 Dec.1967, and returned to American control on 16 Mar.1973. He is a successful Ophthalmologist in Daytona Beach, Florida.

” I have given a lot of talks, about medicine, about ophthalmology, even about the D-Day Invasion as I was privileged to go to Normandy and witness the 50th anniversary of the invasion in June 1944. But not about my captivity.

I don’t ride in parades; I don’t open shopping centers; I don’t give interviews and talks about it. I have tried very hard NOT to be a professional POW. My philosophy has always been to look forward, not backward, to consider the future rather than the past. “

hal kushner vietnam war 50th

Hal Kushner M.D. COL (retired) Hal Kushner speaks to Vietnam veterans, family members and many others during Saturday’s commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War ceremony at Cape Canaveral National Cemetery. Photo courtesy of Florida TODAY.

He has spoken at a few special events, and was recently featured in the PBS documentary series, The Vietnam War by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick in 2018. He endured horrible brutal, unimaginable conditions. He was a 26-year old flight surgeon when the helicopter went down and he was captured. In The Vietnam War Captain Hal Kushner hopes that people will understand the deep change it caused in American culture. He also hopes that Americans will value and understand the sacrifice and contribution of ordinary service people. His story is truly remarkable.

His story truly captured our estimated 450 audience who were glued to his every word. You can read some of Hal’s words here from the Florida TODAY (which highlighted our event on the front page the following day).

You can also hear Dr. Kushner’s similar presentation he gave at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Foundation on Memorial Day 2018. Compelling story.

vietnamese unforgettable memories foundation

The Vietnamese Unforgettable Memories Foundation ladies.

We were so fortunate to also have the Vietnamese Unforgettable Memories Foundation attend. This is an organization of Vietnamese women who escaped Vietnam during the Fall of Saigon in 1975, thanks to our Vietnam era soldiers who helped get them to freedom. They are so very thankful to our Vietnam soldiers for saving them that they started the Foundation to thank them by pinning the Vietnam 50th official Lapel Pin on our Vietnam veterans.

One of our attendees wrote a message to the leader of this organization thanking them for their presence, and pinning of the lapel pin on her husband. She wrote that her husband felt healed after meeting these ladies. He could see that his service was not in vain, that he was part of the whole who brought freedom to the South Vietnamese. Awesome.



The Rolling Thunder Florida Chapter One contributed the Missing Man Table and presented the POW/MIA wreath.

We had a 1953 Studebaker (Duece and a half) on display, an Army jeep, and a Airboat decked out POW style, along with the traveling Vietnam Mobile Museum. A great display of artifacts for people to see.

1953 studebaker

1953 Studebaker (Duece and a half) with Vietnam Mobile Museum

After Dr. Kushner’s presentation, members of the Support Committee read the 602 names of the Vietnam era veterans who were buried at CCNC from March 29, 2018 until March 29, 2019. All Vietnam veterans names were read the following year, which was well over 1,200 names. It is a very emotional experience not only to read the names, but to hear them read, especially if you have a loved one whose name is read.

Singer Suzy Cunningham (NASA employee) sang our national anthem, Star Spangled Banner and later in the program during her rendition of America the Beautiful, an American icon, a bald eagle soared ahead the crowd with her two young. Amazing timing.

We closed the ceremony with a tribute from our WWII fathers and comrades with a C47 (the Tico Belle) flyover.

Tico Belle

Tico Belle, WWII C47 flyover at Saturday’s commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War ceremony at Cape Canaveral National Cemetery.

The Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum is honored to share its World War II C-47 (“The TICO BELLE”) as a tribute of sacrifice for our Vietnam War 50th Commemoration Ceremony.

vietnam pinning ceremony

Dr. Hal Kushner pinning Vietnam veteran.

The TICO BELLE served in the WWII Normandy Invasions, Cherbourg, Bastogne and Berlin Airlifts just to name a few. Today, the Valiant Air Command offers her to honor Vietnam Veterans interred here at Cape Canaveral National Cemetery as well as to all those that have sacrificed for our great Country.

Immediately following the ceremony we held a Vietnam 50th Lapel Pinning to pin any Vietnam veteran who had not already received his or her long deserved outward recognition for their service in Vietnam.

Pinning is not only for Vietnam Veterans but also for their loved ones. If you are a family member of a Vietnam Veteran who is deceased there is a process one must follow to request the various pins for families.

Vietnam Lapel Pin

Vietnam veterans, family members and many others attend Saturday’s commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War ceremony at Cape Canaveral National Cemetery. Veterans who attended the event received a lapel pin as part of the ceremony. Photo courtesy of Florida TODAY.

The Blue Star Lapel Pin is for surviving family members of a Vietnam veteran who passed away here in the United States after the war.  The Gold Star Lapel Pin is for surviving family members of a Vietnam soldier who gave the ultimate sacrifice while in Vietnam.

vietnamese unforgettable memories foundationIf you wish to get a Blue Star of Gold Star Lapel Pin I refer you to the Vietnamese Unforgettable Memories Foundation or email H.D. (Hong Doan) as this is what these ladies do. You may also visit the Vietnam War 50th Anniversary website.

drone view

View of flag assembly area of Cape Canaveral National Cemetery after the event.

Just so happened that Daniel Bernardi, President and Filmmaker for El Dorado Films, Veterans Documentary Corps and his film crew were on site filming for a documentary in concert with the National Cemetery Administration about national cemeteries. They filmed our event, and interviewed Dr. Kushner, Don Murphy (Cemetery Director), his staff and several members of the Support Committee at Cape Canaveral National Cemetery, me interview

The documentary should be published some time later this fall on the History Channel. Not sure if they’ll use any footage of me, but it was fun to be interviewed.

It never ceases to amaze me of the people, the situations, the stories, everything that has changed my life so much [for the better] all because of that tragic day, January 10, 1970, when my brother was taken from this world in service to our country in Vietnam. Bittersweet, yes. And this is why I do whatever I can do to support our Vietnam veterans, any veteran for that matter…all in honor and memory of my brother, CAPT. Herbert C Crosby [Herby].

Welcome Home and Thank You Vietnam Veterans!

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Always a Sad Day – January 10, 1970

e54f4a4b-14c5-485a-a31e-5c26f3cc5673It’s hard every year on this day, even though it’s been 49 years ago. Forty-nine years just doesn’t seem possible but it is. My brother, Herby, died in a tragic casualty of war. The Vietnam War. He and his crew were lost, listing Missing in Action.

firebird nine one crew pencil drawingI can remember the turmoil, the shock, the tears, oh the tears and crying in the house. And, back in 1970, civilians didn’t get much, if any good information from the government…everything was classified.

Thirty seven years of never giving up hope, for searching every means my parents could, our family became one of the lucky ones. Remains had been repatriated in 1986 (teeth, a couple bone shards, and his dog tag). Those remains were identified using DNA from my sister and me in 2006 (a tooth), and 2011 (five more teeth and two bone shards). We buried his remains in Arlington National Cemetery May 2007 and April 2011, full military honors with helicopter flyover.

I thank God every day for his return home, and those of his crew who have also been identified and buried in American soil.

It’s always a day of reflection. What if? What if he came home? What if? Sometimes I make those what ifs like a dream. Of course, we deal with reality, and again, I’m thankful for what we did get back of him. I have friends who are still waiting and hoping. Never give up hope.

Dad and Mom are with him now so all is good, really. They are the ones who suffered so much more than anyone else.

I have so limited photographs of Herby, yet today I pulled out a couple from when he was on leave in 1968. Just normal time at the dinner table and him all decked out for a date. I had gotten a camera for Christmas so took photos every chance I got.

Never would realize those would be some of the last photos of him at home.

“Dear Herby,

Missing you. I’m doing what I can to give back to all your fellow comrades and I still support the National League of Families. I wear your dog tag to every event/outing that pertains to you or our veterans. I’m friends with your comrades and buddies from Vietnam, and boy do they have the stories. You’d love to hear them. They miss you too. Meeting and knowing them is one of the best outcomes of your loss ever. I call them my gift from you. Lost one brother but you gave me a whole Assault Helicopter Company of brothers!

You still get attention even after all the years. People contact me who wear your POW/MIA bracelet. Their support is amazing.  You were honored by one of your comrades, Frank Anton, former POW, at the Memorial Day Ceremony last year at Cape Canaveral National Cemetery. I’m a volunteer for the cemetery, can you believe that? Volunteering there is teaching me more than I ever expected about military burials and you wouldn’t believe the folks I’m meeting, everyone from generals to the grunts on the ground. They all have amazing stories.  You’re also helping young Army ROTC Cadets reach their educational and military dreams come true.  You’re never forgotten Herby, never.

Oh yeah, I’ll be coming up to Arlington to visit you on your birhtday. I’m riding up with the Rolling Thunder on their last Memorial Day Demonstration Ride in Washington, D.C. Will tell you all about it when I’m there.

Thinking of you today and remembering fun times years ago growing up. All is good here. I’ve been truly blessed because of you, tragically so, but you know, I’d rather have you here.  See ya later. Clear Right!


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Ten Years Ago, May 25, 2007. Crosby Burial at Arlington National Cemetery

herby arlington grave 2014Ten years ago, May 25, 2007. I was at Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) burying remains of my brother, Herby [Capt. Herbert C. Crosby]. The funeral was beyond what I ever dreamed it could be. The patriotic grandeur, the glory it was, was breathtaking, and forever etched in my mind. The many family, friends, and comrades who were there will tell you the same.

(View short video of the service here.)

Deep in my heart I knew he’d come home some day. This wasn’t the way I hoped for, especially in the early years of his MIA status. He was home though, which gave our family a little closure. So bittersweet it was. We waited 37 years, never gave up hope, and never, ever stopped searching for him.

I’ve visited his grave many times, mostly in December laying wreaths with Wreaths Across America. However, I have not been back to ANC for Memorial Day since his burial. This year I will be there to reflect, remember, and decorate his grave on this 10th anniversary. His [would be] 70th birthday is May 30 [traditional Memorial Day].

If all goes as scheduled, I will be riding with the Rolling Thunder in their annual Demonstration Ride in support of the full accountability of our POW/MIAs. Prisoners from the Vietnam War were knowingly left behind, which is hard to swallow, but it’s true. If for some reason any of them survived this long, time is running short to get them home alive. And, if not alive, their remains will erode in the tropical environments making identification even more difficult than it is now. DNA from myself, and my sister, were used to identify Herby but over time and environment, DNA becomes harder to use too.

A lot has happened over these past 10 years. Ten scholarships have been awarded to Army ROTC cadets in his name. His Purple Heart, Bronze Star medals and additional medals were awarded posthumously. People who wore a POW/MIA bracelet with his name on it contact me to share their bracelet story. (Being Memorial Day weekend many do an internet search of his name.) I’ve attended five Rattler Firebird Association Reunions held across the country. Sadly, there were several comrade funerals, mostly early deaths due to war related illness. Joining the Support Committee for the new Cape Canaveral National Cemetery is one of my give-backs to our veterans. All this, and a lot more, because of one tragic loss in war-time.

Never Forgotten. Remembering you Herby, Dad [Herb Crosby], and all our fallen heroes.

Did you attend Herby’s funeral? Would love to hear your comments of that day.



Posted in Capt. Crosby, POW/MIA, Rattlers and Firebirds, Salute, The Funeral | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Ten Years Ago—He’s Coming Home!

crosby analysis photo

It was 10 years ago today, November 28 that my brother’s remains were “officially” declared identified. He had been listed as Missing in Action, Vietnam, since 10 January 1970.  “Officially” meaning that even though the DNA match had been a success, and all reports had been completed, Mom (Primary Next of Kin) still had to accept the findings by signing the documents presented to her this day in 2006. A very long 36 years searching for answers.

It had also been a very long 2006. We (Mom, my sister, and me) had known [unofficially] of his remains being identified since February when I attended the regional POW/MIA Family Update in Savannah, Georgia that year. The Army representative for Herby’s case couldn’t give me Herby’s name then, but confirmed “two crew members had been identified.”

The Department of POW/MIA Office (DPMO) still had more work to be done before they could officially release his name to us (a satellite photograph had to be taken of the location they assumed the helicopter to be and they had to meet with the other crew member’s family). Because of this he strongly advised that we not announce our “good news” until it was official. He smiled though, telling me what to expect in the coming months. I can’t tell you enough how my heart was leaping for joy, yet crying like a baby for the bittersweet heartache I was feeling that beautiful day. And, I couldn’t tell anyone! I was afraid I’d jinx the reports if I did tell someone. I couldn’t help it, I did tell my best friend who I was visiting later that day. I knew she’d keep our secret.

Here we were though, nine months later, being presented the analysis results. Finally, getting the story of what took place over the past 37 years of searching for Herby.

Mom was anxious. I was anxious, and so was Dan, on this most significant Tuesday morning. Paul Bethke, Director of the Department of POW/MIA Office (now the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency) at the Pentagon, arrived mid morning to present the findings that would close Case #1547. Major Kenneth Gambles, our new assigned Casualty Officer, was with him. It was a day I will forever hold dear, always.

After introductions and greetings we set down at the kitchen table to go page by page through the thick booklet of documents, reports, and findings. Paul went through each section, explaining in detail the scenarios of what they believed happened, remains repatriation, who was interviewed, the witness stories, where the helicopter was presumed to be (it’s location still not confirmed) in the journey of identifying his remains.

This session lasted just over four hours. That’s right, over four hours we listened, asked questions, taking only one break. Talk about information overload, yet we were glued to every word Mr. Bethke spoke, every page he flipped. Our eyes wide open, we focused to absorb everything he said. At this time, remains consisted of one tooth in which DNA (provided by myself and my sister) matched without a doubt to Herby. It was amazing. [In 2011, five additional teeth, and two bone shards were identified.)

At the end of the session, Paul picked up a velvet pouch he had placed on the table at the beginning of the briefing. He opened the pouch, leaned toward Mom telling her, “this is for you Mrs. Crosby,” as he pulled out a dog tag. Not only had the tooth been identified, but the dog tag Herby wore that tragic day, was also among his remains. As he handed the dog tag to Mom, my heart broke again. She took it, looked it over closely, rubbing it back and forth with her fingers as if it were gold. It was. After what seemed endless time, she lifted her head, looked at Paul and said, “this is all I have left of my son,” as she closed her hand around the dog tag pulling it to her heart. I can still see the emotion in her face. Tears were streaming down my face, and everyone else at the table.

Paul went on to tell us of burial options. Burial? We had not even thought of that. One option was that Herby could be buried in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors. Being the Primary Next of Kin, Mom had final decision to make for this too.

herby crosby donalsonville grave Since the time Herby had been declared dead in November 1974, we had a grave marker for him in the family plot at Friendship Memorial Gardens  in Donalsonville, Georgia. We just assumed if he ever returned that’s where he would be buried. We never gave up hope that he would come home alive, and not need that spot.

However, when the Arlington option was given, Mom thought that would be the appropriate final resting place for her son. She knew Dad would be proud to know his son would be in our country’s most hallowed, sacred cemetery. Herby deserved this honor. So it was determined then that’s where he would be buried. We chose a funeral date as close to Herby’s birthday (traditional Memorial Day) for the following year.

The Press Release from the Department of Defense was published 19 December 2006. I had no idea the impact that would follow. Lives would once again change forever. We could finally announce Herby was finally coming home after 37 years.

Our family was one of the lucky ones, a success story for the National League of POW/MIA Families. I know, without a doubt, that if not for this League, my brother’s remains would have never been repatriated and finally identified. The League is the one group that has stood their ground, while tirelessly, diligently working with the government, in their mission to account for every Vietnam POW and MIA. I remain a member of this very important organization.

I have been blessed beyond words by the affection and reach my brother had with his comrades [especially the Rattlers and Firebirds] throughout his Army life, including his Missing In Action years.

This day in 2006 was so emotional, so bittersweet for not only me, but for all our family and friends. Herby was on his way home. I could finally shout it from the rooftop! “Herby is coming home. Thank you, God. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”

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POW/MIA Recognition Day 2016

pow_mia_poster_2016It’s National POW/MIA Recognition Day today. If you’re a member of my family, close friend, you know the pain we lived for years, waiting, praying, seeking, and hoping for information about my brother, Herby (Capt. Herbert C Crosby). He was listed MIA January 10, 1970. Lives certainly changed forever that day.

After 37 years our family became as “success story” with the National League of POW/MIA Families. Herby’s remains had been repatriated, and identified, and now buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Never giving up hope. Prayers answered in a way we preferred not, but they were answered, and we are forever grateful to the League and to the Department of POW/MIA Accounting for their tireless work in the accountability process. (It’s a daunting, never ending job, yet so very rewarding.)

Today, I remember and honor all the POWs and MIAs and their families. I personally know two Hanoi Hilton POWs who are alive today. I’ve met and had fellowship with many POWs from WWII to Vietnam. Their lives, their families, deserve today’s recognition to let them know we love them, we care, and we never gave up on them, ever. Once we give up on our defenders, we have no country. Think about that, I can only imagine. My hope today is that everyone take a moment to teach your young about who these soldiers were, these real life heroes who some sacrificed their lives for our freedom.

Earlier this month I received a notice to approve a post on Herby’s website. I must tell you this touched my heart deeply because, well, you read his story (in the comments section of this site’s home page) and you’ll know why. It starts off:

My grandfather served in Vietnam and retired from the military. As a boy growing up my grandpa always told me he served his time so I didn’t have to. Honoring our service men and women Has always been the 11th commandment for our family and POWs and MIAs have always been close to my family’s hearts.

In the summer of 2001,

So many these days don’t know, don’t care, yet bright stars drop in my InBox every so often to let me know they have or had a bracelet with my brother’s name on it. Their stories are unique, and so alike, they’re about caring.

Never forget.

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2016 Crosby Army ROTC Scholarship Awarded to Cadet Mendoza

marylou wade and cadet mendoza

Marylou Wade with Cadet Mendoza, Army ROTC Award Ceremony, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, April 2016

I look like a proud mother here, and in a way I am. I presented the 2016 Crosby Army ROTC Scholarship to Cadet Marcelo Gonzales de Mendoza at the Army ROTC (Eagle Battalion) 2016 Award Ceremony at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU), Thursday, April 14. I have the pleasure of being among some of our country’s finest young men and women who will lead and defend our country, readily.

Meet Cadet Mendoza. What a fine young man. Well deserving of this year’s scholarship. He has already served two tours in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and one tour in Kuwait.

He graduated high school in Burnsville, North Carolina, in May 2003. That December he enlisted in the United States Air Force as a Fire Protection Apprentice. In 2005, having transferred into the US Air Force Reserves, he decided to continue military service by enlisting in the US Army as an infantryman. In July 2006, he deployed to Kirkuk, Iraq, for Operation Iraqi Freedom.

scholarship presentation

Marylou Wade presenting Crosby Scholarship to Cadet Mendoza. Capt Crosby story portrayed on screen.

Seeking further challenges in his military career, Mendoza applied for and was accepted to the Engineer Dive School. After deploying once again to OIF in October 2008, he returned stateside and transitioned to Phase Two at NSA Panama City, FL, where he spent seven months successfully completing his training to become a second class diver.

In 2009, has put his extensive dive training to work at Fort Eustis, VA, where he served with the 569th Dive Team to prepare the unit for an upcoming deployment. After promotion to Sergeant and attending the Warrior Leader Course at Fort Benning, GA, in 2011, Mendoza attended the Advanced Leader Course. After another deployment to Kuwait and promotion to Staff Sergeant, Mendoza elected to separate from active duty to pursue his higher education with a college degree at ERAU to study Aeronautics with a double minor in Aeronautical Studies and Aviation Law. After a year attending ERAU, Mendoza once again felt compelled to serve his county so he enrolled in the university’s Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program. He hopes to branch infantry and pass his experience and knowledge on to other soldiers as a commissioned officer.

His experience and dedication is tremendous. It was such a pleasure to present the scholarship to this young man. He has already experienced extraordinary military success and has a bright future ahead of him. My husband and I enjoyed talking with him over dinner which followed the ceremony.

melvin morris

MOH Melvin Morris with Marylou Wade

This year a guest speaker was added to the ceremony. Recent Medal of Honor recipient, Sergeant First Class (Ret.) Melvin Morris spoke to the audience of young cadets, encouraging them to listen to their leaders. He said even though at such young age they may think they know it all, they don’t.  The only way to really learn was to listen, take heed, and when times get difficult on the battlefield, even in everyday life, everything that was taught to them would hold them strong. Listening was the key.

I had the pleasure to talk with Morris after the ceremony when I shared my brother’s (Capt. Crosby) story. He told me how very much he and his comrades counted on the helicopter pilots, for dear life itself during the Vietnam war.

eagle battalion 2016

The Army ROTC Eagle Battalion preparing for 2016 Award Ceremony.

It brings so much satisfaction and comfort too, knowing that the men and women of the Eagle Battalion are part of our country’s defense.

It is always a thrill of patriotism I feel when I am among the Eagle Battalion, especially dressed in their finest, and feeling they have accomplished so much during the year.

Blessings and success to them all, always.

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