WASHINGTON (Army News Service, May 9, 2007) - Sgt. 1st Class Lewis Clark Walton Jr. has completed two combat tours in Iraq.
His father, Sgt. 1st Class Lewis Clark Walton Sr., only recently made it home from his second tour in Vietnam.
Sgt. 1st Class Walton Jr. escorted his father's remains from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command on Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, to his hometown of East Greenwich, R.I., for burial May 1.
"This is very rare, that we have a son escort remains," said Steve Thompson, JPAC external relations officer.
The mission of JPAC is to achieve the fullest possible accounting of all Americans missing as a result of the nation's past conflicts. More than 88,000 servicemembers are still missing from previous wars. Of that total, more than 1,780 are still unaccounted for from the Vietnam War.
On May 3, 1971, then Staff Sgt. Lewis C. Walton Sr., was inserted with two fellow green beret Soldiers and five Vietnamese into a remote area of South Vietnam near Da Nang to conduct a long-range reconnaissance patrol. The patrol members were ambushed and died without burial.
JPAC teams surveyed and excavated the site five times between 1993 to 2006. Not only did they find material evidence at the site that was consistent with U.S. Army infantry equipment, they discovered a set of airborne "jump wings" and a St. Christopher medallion. Sgt. 1st Class Walton Jr. said his father had soldered together a set of airborne wings and a St. Christopher medal to carry for good luck.
Sgt. 1st Class Walton Sr. was identified using mitochondrial DNA by scientists at JPAC's Central Identification Lab.
Sgt. 1st Class Walton Jr. said he was impressed with JPAC and expressed his heartfelt appreciation for their recovery and identification of his father's remains.
"To say thank you is an understatement," he said. "We've always had the hope that he'd be found somewhere, someday, and in good enough condition to bring home."
Sgt. 1st Class Walton Jr. said his father inspired him to join the Army. "I knew I was going in the military," said the 40-year-old and 21-year Army veteran, said. "I come from a very patriotic family."
"The last time I remember him I was two, other than pictures and videos,"
Sgt. 1st Class Walton Jr., said. "One picture I vividly remember was from Vietnam after his first tour, gear in one hand and me being held by the other.
"To come full circle, obviously you feel a sense of relief or some closure. The main thing is you are bringing them home."
Sgt. 1st Class Walter Jr. is an active-duty National Guard and Reserve Soldier with the 115th Military Police Company.
(Staff Sgt. Matthew Chlosta writes for the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command.)