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!

~Marylou”

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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.

 

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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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Forty-six Years Ago Today – January 10, 1970

herby crosby 1969I can’t believe it’s been 46 years ago today that my brother, Herby, left this world. A tragic casualty of war, the Vietnam war. “Life goes on,” so “they” say, yet the memories, the love remain deep-rooted, strong, if not stronger than ever in my heart.

Today I celebrate Herby. Tears of love roll gently down my face bursting when hitting the desk as I write. They glisten like crystal prisms from the light shining through the window to the right of me. Those wet sparkles somehow give me assurance that his death was not in vain. His sparkle of life touched everyone he came in contact with over his short time on this earth. He left many precious gifts to us all, and that’s what I celebrate today.

Young Army ROTC cadets have received scholarships, his comrades have become my friends, my brothers they are, and his sparkling personality, his charm is forever cemented in his family and friend’s hearts.

I was 11 years old when he joined the Army in 1966. I thought it was the most exciting, wonderful thing to be a sister of a soldier. Being so young at the time, I didn’t realize how precious every day was to have my brother around.

I so wish there would have been many precious memories made with Herby following this day in 1970, but that didn’t happen.

I strive to keep his honor, his legacy alive in any way I can. He is my passion. I am surrounded by not only his keepsakes and photos, but with colorful fabrics of those in my family who are gone, all of which give me comfort.

Herby, forever that fun-loving big brother whom I still adore, I miss you.

Remembering and honoring today, Firebird Nine One, Capt. Herbert C Crosby, and his crew, WO George “Andy” Howes, SP5 Wayne C. Allen, and SP4 Francis G. Graziosi.

firebird nine one crew drawing

Firebird 91 Crew

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National POW/MIA Day 2015

pow mia poster 2015

It’s National POW/MIA Day 2015. You see that black and white POW/MIA flag every day, even if you don’t realize it, you see this flag. It’s most likely you don’t even know a POW or MIA soldier. However, if you don’t know what the flag symbolizes or means, well, shame on you. Look it up here: http://www.pow-miafamilies.org/powmia-bracelets/

I remember the day my brother, Capt. Herbert C Crosby, U.S. Army, became a statistic, Case# [1547], and was woven into that flag. That was in 1970, January 10, the tragic day he was listed Missing in Action in Vietnam.

low-mia flagThe POW/MIA flag brings unity for a common cause throughout our country, especially with our military, veterans and their families. It’s a symbol of hope. A reminder of those who gave their ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.

My family’s lives, as all families who had/have a loved one lost, left behind, changed drastically, and forever. I thank God we were a lucky family. Lucky in a way I usually don’t refer to.  I liken it to finding a needle in a haystack. That’s lucky. My brother’s remains were repatriated [1989], identified [2006] and buried in American soil in Arlington National Cemetery [2007].

I personally know two exPOWs and met many from WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. Their stories are shocking and atrocious.  It was an honor to meet the exPOWs and hear them share their stories in 2010 at the National Prisoner of War Museum in Andersonville, Georgia. I still believe there are men still alive in Vietnam, although I can barely grasp the pure hell they would live.

Many families are still waiting. We honor today those families, and the men and women who have not made it home. We recognize and support them, the citizens, and the government’s efforts to find and repatriate every single missing warrior.

YOU ARE NOT FORGOTTEN.

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. Ephesians 6:11

 

 

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