A hero’s homecoming was 43 years in the making. The remains of Captain Virgil Meroney, III, were returned to Northwest Arkansas more than four decades he was killed in the Vietnam War.
Capt. Meroney was listed as Missing in Action and presumed dead after his plane was shot down in March of 1969 flying over Laos.
After years waiting for answers, Capt. Meroney’s family gathered in Fayetteville Friday as the remains were returned.
“This is my brother’s home,” says his brother Douglas. “His wife lived in Gentry, that’s where he’s from. He graduated here. He was proud to be a Razorback. “
In July 2011 excavation teams found Capt. Meroney’s military ID card, and months later, testing positively identified his remains. It came as a surprise to his daughter Kimberly.
“’Are you serious?’” Kimberly remembers. “’Really, is this real?’ For them to actually find something after that many years and in those conditions is amazing.”
After the Meroney’s found out President Barack Obama announced it to the world at this year’s national Memorial Day ceremony.
“This is the promise that we are fulfilling today to the Meroney family of Fayetteville, Arkansas,” said President Obama. “Forty-three years after he went missing we can announce that army Captain Virgil Meroney, III, is coming home.”
“It actually brought tears to my eyes,” Kimberly said. “You know, the President of the United States just honored our family. And that was a very special moment. Very special.”
The Patriot Guard escorted Capt. Meroney’s body to Fayetteville, passing through the square, lined with people who came to honor his sacrifice.
“Some gave some, this person gave all,” one onlooker said. “And I think with the way Vietnam veterans were treated in the past, this is just a show of support that we’ve not forgotten.”
Funeral services for Capt. Meroney will be held Saturday, June 9 at 1 p.m. at University Baptist Church. His burial will be at Fairview Memorial Gardens following the service.