Funeral Held for Vietnam-Era Pilot
By T.A. BADGER (Associated Press Writer)
From Associated Press
February 27, 2006 10:55 PM EST
FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas - Thirty-five years after his Air Force jet crashed in Southeast Asia, Col. Harold Lineberger's remains are back in Texas.
Lineberger was remembered Monday by family and friends at a military funeral at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery about two months after his remains, found in Cambodia, were positively identified.
"We've missed him for so many years," his son Jeffery told a crowd of more than 150 people, including many of Lineberger's Vietnam-era comrades. "It's been over three decades since we said goodbye ... but it's still very hard and sad to let him go."
Lineberger, a 36-year-old major from Austin, disappeared Jan. 29, 1971, while flying an OV-10A Bronco on a reconnaissance mission over northeastern Cambodia.
His plane was one of two that took off that morning from a forward air base in Thailand to locate and photograph enemy targets in the area, according to the Missouri-based POW Network.
Retired Gen. Andrew Iosue, then commander of the Air Force group that included Lineberger's squadron, knew Lineberger at Randolph AFB in San Antonio before both shipped out to Vietnam.
He said the OV-10 pilots often flew low to get a good look at what was happening on the ground. He suspects Lineberger was shot down by small-arms fire.
Don Payne, an Air Force lieutenant who was the duty officer when Lineberger was reported missing, had flown the same aircraft a day before Lineberger. He said the funeral finally brought him a sense of closure.
"You're happy he was found, but it brings back the memories of the loss," said Payne, a retired major.
Retired Col. Gordon Bruner, who commanded Lineberger's 23rd Tactical Support Squadron, said Lineberger told him where he was going that day and what he was looking for.
When the pilot didn't return, Bruner oversaw the squadron's fruitless search for the wreckage.
"To lose somebody in that environment was like losing a brother," said Bruner, who shared a trailer with Lineberger at the forward base in Ubon, Thailand. "It was a very cohesive unit. We got to know each other very well."
The remains of more than 800 Americans missing from the Vietnam War have been identified, while about 1,800 service members are still unaccounted for, according to the Defense Department.
God Bless and welcome home soldier