Vietnam vet’s remains buried 40 years later

DNA helped with identification

The remains of a Vietnam War veteran from Illinois were buried alongside his parents on July 24, 40 years after the young helicopter gunner was killed in a crash overseas.

Army Spc. Randy Dalton was buried with full military honors at Sunset Hill Cemetery in Glen Carbon, Ill. — exactly four decades after the 20-year-old was killed in a helicopter crash in Cambodia.

On July 22, more than 200 people, some waving American flags, watched as the Illinois Patriot Guard escorted Dalton’s casket from St. Louis to Sunset Hill Funeral Home.

Dan Lentz, of Anna, Ill., told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that it was important to give Dalton an honorable welcome home. “This soldier went to fight for our freedom, served in an unpopular war and was lost in the jungle for 40 years,” Lentz said.

The U.S. government and Dalton’s family spent decades trying to identify his remains. Boxes retrieved in 1989 took years to examine before relatives were asked last winter to submit DNA samples.

Dalton’s scout helicopter was shot down on July 24, 1971, during a reconnaissance mission near the South Vietnam border. His body and that of another soldier were left behind due to enemy fire, and their bodies were missing the following day when officials attempted to retrieve them.

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