RICHARD VANDEGEER - A MEMORIAL DAY PROFILE -Posted on 3/6/15 - by CLAY MARSTON CLAYMARSTON@HOTMAIL.COM
- A MEMORIAL DAY PROFILE -
CHRONICLE-TELEGRAPH - 28 May 2007 -
Jamie Lindstrom, a North Ridgeville veterinarian, knew Richard Vandegeer as the stepbrother he enjoyed playing with when they were small children.
The nation knows Richard Vandegeer as the last official casualty of the Vietnam War and as the last name inscribed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington.
Vandegeer died at age 27 in one of the most infamous battles of the Vietnam War, the Mayaguez Incident of 15 May 1975 — two weeks after the U.S. pulled out of Vietnam.
Vandegeer joined the United States Army in 1968 and signed up to be a helicopter pilot.
He knew he could not be sent to Vietnam because his father was already in the Army there, according to Vandegeer’s longtime friend, Richard Sandza of Baltimore.
“ Like so many other American young people, Richard Vandegeer did not want to go to Vietnam,” Sandza wrote in a column about his friend for the Baltimore Guide.
Vandegeer spent two years in South Korea.
In 1971, he was discharged but grew restless and joined the United States Air Force.
He was sent to Thailand and, on the last day of American involvement, ended up as part of a helicopter outfit based at the Thai borders of Cambodia and Laos.
On 15 May 1975 Vandegeer was sent on a mission to rescue the crew of the Mayaguez, an American merchant ship that had been captured by the Khmer Rouge.
The ship’s crew, however, had been taken off the ship and was reportedly being held on Koh Tang Island in the Gulf of Thailand.
Vandegeer’s helicopter, according to Sandza’s article, had slowed for a landing on the island to deliver a Marine assault force when a rocket-propelled grenade fired from the underbrush blew the helicopter out of the sky.
Vandegeer was one of 18 men who died that day. Fifty others were wounded.
“ One of the surviving crewmen told me Vandegeer’s helicopter burned for hours,” Sandza wrote.
In 1991, an operation to recover remains from the helicopter yielded only a large number of co-mingled remains, according to the Arlington National Cemetery Web site.
It wasn’t until four years later that Vandegeer’s remains were identified.
Authorities, however, spent another year confirming the results using DNA testing.
Vandegeer’s remains were finally laid to rest in 2000 — 25 years after his death — in Arlington National Cemetery, capping the decade-long recovery and identification operation.
“ I always felt a little cheated because I never got to know him later in life,” says Lindstrom, who was separated from his stepbrother when their parents divorced early in their childhoods.
“ I was probably only 5 or 6 then,” Lindstrom said. “ Richard would come over to visit; we liked to do things together. He liked to do things with Lincoln Logs, and we’d just dump them out and start building. It’s funny how some things stick in your mind.”
When Lindstrom’s father and stepmother divorced, she took Vandegeer and returned to her native Netherlands.
She and her son returned to the U.S. some years later and settled in Columbus.
YOU ARE NOT FORGOTTEN
NOR SHALL YOU EVER BE
R E M E M B R A N C E
- WWW.HISTORICALMILITARIA.COM -
RememberingPosted on 5/15/14 - by Steve39 year ago today you flew for the last time. i miss you, my friend.
Never ForgottenPosted on 5/27/13 - by Keith Aakre email@example.com
Rest in Peace Richard. From your fellow comrades in the 239th Aviation Company -- Korea.
We RememberPosted on 10/14/11 - by Robert Sage firstname.lastname@example.orgRichard is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
RememberedPosted on 2/25/11 MORE
You are MissedPosted on 9/11/08 - by Scott Schnipper email@example.comYour bravery and compassion and humanity are inspiring. You're being remembered today by a stranger, who recalls listening to the tapes you made in Bangkok before departing on that fateful flight to Cambodia. Rest in Peace, Richard Vandegeer, so generations to come remember your name and spirit.MORE
You are not ForgottenPosted on 8/24/07 - by Jim Sawmiller firstname.lastname@example.orgYou have made the Ultimate Sacrifice. If any Family members, or Friends Of Richards reads this. I am looking for a picture of him. To put on our Ohio POW-MIA VN Memorial Wall, plus our web site. You are in our Prayers. God Bless you, and your Family.MORE
Do not stand at my grave and weepPosted on 5/19/05 - by Bob RossDo not stand at my grave and weep.MORE
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.
Mary Frye – 1932
RememberingPosted on 11/9/03 - by Stephen P. Blackburn email@example.comRichard,MORE
I was on duty guarding eastern Europe at US Army Security Agency Field Station Berlin when the OD told me to report to my commanding officer. When I got down off the hill, my CO told me that you were missing in action. My first reaction was "I thought we were done dying over there" He said, "I thought we were, too."
You were the closest that I ever had to an older brother, Richard. I miss loosing chess games to you.
If I should make it to heaven, I'll see you there. If God is just, any man who gives his life while trying to save another will certainly be in heaven.
With love and honor,
Stephen P. Blackburn
Thank You SirPosted on 1/1/03 - by Donald LytleAs a fellow Buckeye, I say "THANK YOU"MORE
As a Veteran, I say "JOB WELL DONE, LIEUTENANT"
As an American, "YOUR DEATH WAS NOT IN VAIN"
And as a Believer, "YOUR SPIRIT IS ALIVE--AND STRONG"
Again, thank you Sir, for your valiant and courageous service, faithful contribution, and most holy sacrifice, given to this great country of ours!
REST IN ETERNAL PEACE MY FRIEND
in remembrance of those who gave their livesPosted on 10/28/01 - by charles winingerIN REMEMBRANCE OF THOSE BRAVE HERO;S WHO PAID THE PRICE FOR OUR FREEDOM GODBLESS ALL WHO SERVED AND FOR THOSE WHO PERISHED I KNOW GOD HAS THEM IN HIS CARE GODBLESS THEM ALL FOR I SHALL NEVER FORGET OUR HERO'SMORE
If I should die...remembrances for 2LT. Richard Vandegeer, USAF...one of the last to die!Posted on 10/31/00If I should die and leave you here awhile, be not like others, sore undone, who keep long vigils by the silent dust and weep...for MY sake, turn again to life and smile...Nerving thy heart and trembling hand to do something to comfort other hearts than thine. Complete these dear, unfinished tasks of mine...and I, perchance, may therein comfort you.MORE
In Honored Rememberance Of Lieutenant VandegeerPosted on 10/28/00 - by Michael Robert PattersonOn October 27, 2000, Air Force helicopter pilot Second Lieutenant Richard Vandegeer -- the last name on the Vietnam Memorial in Washington -- will be buried in a solemn, private ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, capping a decade-long recovery and identification operation by the Army Central Identification Laboratory, based in Honolulu.MORE
The identification by the lab, known as CILHI, took four years and the use of "the most cutting-edge technologies available" to sort Vandegeer's remains from those of the others killed in the crash that took his life, said John Byrd, a CILHI staff anthropologist. His work on the case included supervising archaeological digs on Koh Tang Island, Cambodia, where Vandegeer's helicopter crashed on May 15, 1975, in the last combat action of the Vietnam War. In act, from the Global Positioning System-based receivers and laser transits used to locate the aircraft to the radio e-mail systems accessed by search teams in remote areas, technology was a big part of the recovery operation. And it will remain so, as the lab continues to handle search-and-identification operations for soldiers of the Vietnam and Korean wars, and even those of World War II. "Any veteran would appreciate knowing that our country would care enough to come looking and remove us from a mudhole and bring what was left back home," said Warner Britton, a retired Air Force pilot who flew helicopters similar to Vandegeer'si n Vietnam. "But more important, the program gives some hope to families who lost
Byrd said the seven water and land recovery operations on Koh Tang for remains from Vandegeer's helicopter started in 1991 and yielded a large number of "commingled" remains. Besides Vandegeer's remains, CILHI recovered what it believed to be remains from 10 Marine infantrymen and two Navy corpsmen from the 2nd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, on board Vandegeer's helicopter, known as Knife 31.
The number of personnel involved in the crash, as well as the large number of bone fragments, "presented a challenge to the science. . .The more remains you have at a site, the difficulty goes up dramatically," Byrd said. Six Marines have also since been identified, and identifications of the two Navy corpsmen are pending. Privacy statutes preclude Byrd from discussing individuals, but sources outside the U.S. Department of Defense confirmed the identification of Vandegeer and his burial date.
The lab tapped into the smarts of a forensic computer program developed at the University of Tennessee, called ForDisc, which automates the process of matching skeletal remains, Byrd said. ForDisc is based on an extensive skeletal database that comprises samples of racial and body types found throughout the population, Byrd said, and allows scientists from CILHI to quickly determine the probability of whether a femur of a certain length matches a tibia of a certain length, for example. Recent new methodology extends that capability to bone fragments as well. This is a key piece of software, because the CILHI scientists work "blind" when they begin analysis of skeletal remains, with no prior knowledge of the physical characteristics or even the number of individuals involved in an incident, according to a command briefing. It's also more useful than DNA in cases where the number of individuals involved raises the possibility that the same base pair sequence will show up in more than one set of remains, Byrd said.
But ultimately, it is often dental records that affirmatively identify remains. "The anatomy of teeth, cavity patterns, restorations and extractions can lead to the identification of an individual," much like fingerprints can, said Army Lt. Col. Cal Shiroma, a CILHI forensic odontologist. CILHI maintains an extensive dental database, called the Computer Assisted Post Mortem Identification system, which contains the dental records of all U.S. personnel missing in Asia. Shiroma can scan in as many as 30 X rays of a recovered tooth and use the database's search engine to generate candidates for a match. A computerized dental radiography system then fine-tunes that match, Shiroma said.
Vandegeer's remains were first identified in 1995, and the process was completed last November. Independent authorities then spent nearly one year confirming those results, sources said.
CILHI's computer and communications support is provided by Resource Consultants Inc. in Waipahu, Hawaii. The records of the missing servicemen from three wars, as well as data related to recovery operations such as maps, aerial photographs and scientists' field notes, currently occupy 30GB of storage space, on-site consultant Gary Stephens said.
A gradual thaw in U.S. relations with North Korea has resulted in an increase in recovery missions in that country, said Stephens, and the command has started a crash imaging project to scan into a database literally millions of pages from the records of the Korean War MIAs, a project that in its infancy has already consumed 39GB of storage space.
"I believe what we do here is meaningful to the American people, especially the families [of the men missing in action]," Byrd said.
The Ties that BondPosted on 11/11/98 - by Peter DeFrescoI would please -like to speak to someone in Richard's family.MORE
Peter DeFresco 718-836-4160
The Wall of Faces
Brought to you by the organization that built The Wall, the Vietnam Veterans Virtual Memorial Wall is dedicated to honoring, remembering and sharing the legacies of all those who died in the Vietnam War. Here you can go beyond the names on The Wall to see the faces, share the stories and read the remembrances posted by friends, neighbors, classmates and family members.
All of these photos will be showcased in The Education Center at The Wall on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. To learn more about the effort to collect these photos and ensure their faces will never be forgotten, visit www.buildthecenter.org.