AUSTIN (KXAN) - War Veterans in Austin are welcoming home a Vietnam Airman who went missing more than 40 years ago. Using DNA analysis, forensic specialists confirmed the remains of Major Larry James Hanley.
The Air Force pilot went missing on November 4, 1969 at the age of 32 while on a mission in Southeast Asia in the country of Laos.
He grew up in Walla Walla, Washington but is linked to a group of Austin Veterans at the VFW Post 3377 who have been keeping his memory alive along with other Prisoners of War and Missing military members.
Post member Bill Reesman of Austin has been wearing a brass bracelet bearing Major Hanley's name since the early 1980's. Bill's wife bought the bracelet in 1970 to support the family's of POW's and those MIA. Bill's grandmother wore the bracelet without knowing who Hanley was while her grandson served in Vietnam.
After his grandmother's passing, Bill eventually ended up with the bracelet and started wearing it. He knew nothing about Hanley other than the fact he was a fellow Airman. Once the internet came into the picture, Bill found the national POW/MIA website and started posting comments each year on the anniversary of the date Hanley went missing. His goal was to let others know Hanley was not forgotten.
One of Hanley's family members saw the comments and emailed Bill. The families starting emailing back and forth and kept in touch over the years.
In 2003, the VFW Post 3377 decided to create a memorial wall inside their building dedicated to POW's and those still MIA. Due to Bill's connection to Hanley's family they decided to dedicate the wall to him. His family flew in for the ceremony in September 2003.
Last year Bill got a call from Hanley's family that his remains had be recovered and that he was coming home. Major Hanley was laid to rest on July 13, 2013 in Washington.
"I thought thank goodness he's going to come home -- of course it's closure for the family," said Reesman. "But it's a double-sided sword because then you think, 'Oh my, he's not coming home alive."'
Saturday, Hanley's family came back to Austin to help rededicate the wall now that Hanley has been found.
"Thank you for taking Larry as your brother," his sister Darlene Allen tearfully told the crowd. "Thank you for bringing him home."
Darlene said it has been a long road but hopes Larry's story will encourage others to keep the hope and keep looking for their loved ones.
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