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MIA Sgt. Rodney Griffin returning home after 45 years

Discussion in 'Roll of Honor & Memories - All Other Conflicts' started by buk2112, Mar 10, 2015.

  1. buk2112

    buk2112 Member

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    The following article appeared in the Friday March 6, 2015 edition of the Mexico Ledger (Mexico, Missouri):




    By Jim Wooten
    Staff Writer View attachment 22194





    March 06. 2015 1:37PM

    American Hero

    Remains of Sgt. Rodney Griffin to return home after 45 years

    After 45 years, the remains of Sgt. Rodney L. Griffin, have been recovered and identified among a group of remains near where he was last seen close to Memot, Cambodia. Griffin's former wife, Donna, a resident of California, was notified last month as was his brother, Darryl.
    Plans are pending at this time as to when and where Griffin's remains will be interred.
    "Rodney's brothers, Bill and Darryl, submitted DNA samples years ago to the Army for use if Rodney's remains were ever found," said Griffin's widow, Donna. "Earlier last month, I received word from an Army official from Fort Knox that Rodney had been identified from among the remains of a group of servicemen found near the site of the crash in Cambodia.
    "The Army representative from Fort Knox who called is scheduled to call me next week to let me know when and where Rodney will be returned to the U.S. Rodney's family and I do not know where and when that will be. I know everyone who knew and loved Rodney wants him to come home."
    Sgt. Griffin went missing after surviving a helicopter crash while on a combat mission with the 2nd BN, 34th Armored Regiment, 25th Infantry Division in Vietnam near the border with Cambodia May 2, 1970. Enemy fire from within Vietnam caused the helicopter to crash across the border. Those not killed in crash, like Griffin, were able to escape and attempt to evade the enemy. Griffin was last seen firing his M-16 into the elephant grass.
    According to accounts of those who survived, the crew members and Griffin and his fellow soldiers who were passengers had less than a minute to decide whether to surrender or try to evade capture.
    Only one survivor made it to U.S. lines two days later. Griffin was not heard from again, nor did his captors confirm whether or not he was ever a POW.
    In country for six months at the time of the crash, Griffin wrote his family in a letter received just after the crash that he was expecting to receive R and R leave (rest and recreation) to Hawaii to see his wife. Donna Griffin was finishing high school at the time. He was also looking forward to his promotion from Specialist E4 to Sergeant E5 and the awarding of his sergeant stripes.
    While Donna shared that she and Rodney's family are touched by the outpouring of remembrances of him and love for all of them as a family, she said yesterday that she is taking the process one step at a time. "The response on Facebook has been overwhelming. But, we do not have decisions and plans made about bringing Rodney back home. We ask that everyone be patient until we do. We know from the outpouring of concern that everyone is relieved that Rodney will finally come home."
    Born in Mexico in 1948, Griffin's parents later moved to Centralia, where he graduated from Centralia High School in 1968. His picture and that of six other servicemen are displayed in the main hallway of the high school. Just a week ago, Mr. Mike Hann, American History teacher at the school, had taken the picture posted with the article out of the display to review with his students the history of the war in Vietnam.
    "It was Friday, Feb. 27 when I used the picture. Over that weekend, I received word that SGT Griffin's remains had been found and identified," Hann said.
    It has been a long 45 year wait for Donna and Griffin's family as well as the communities of Mexico and Centralia.
    Donna and Rodney were married in 1968 after he graduated from Centralia High School. She was three years younger but with her parents' permission, they were married before Rodney was drafted. He entered the Army in April, 1969. He arrived in Vietnam for what was to be a one-year tour of duty in combat.
    "It was 3 and 1/2 years after we married and he left for Vietnam before I knew (whether Rodney was being held as a POW and coming home or not). After the prisoners being held in Vietnam were released and returned home in the winter of 1973, the U.S. government said that the search for those missing in action by the government was over. After that only private citizens like Ross Perot and others eventually continued to look for Rodney and the others," she said.
    "Not long after I heard in February from the Army about Rodney being found, I happened to be watching a documentary about Vietnam on TV," she said. "A soldier who had fought and survived in Vietnam said in the film, 'Once you are in a war and your buddy dies in honor for you in combat, that person never ever leaves your memory.' That sums up my memories of Rodney."
    Another memory which is etched in her mind is seeing the Army officer at the door of her parents' home in rural Centralia. He had come to tell her Rodney was missing in action.
    Like hundreds of other spouses and next of kin of Vietnam servicemen missing in action, Donna was eventually faced with the decision as to whether or not to ask the Army to declare her husband to be presumed dead. In 1974, a memorial service for Rodney was held in the church in which he was baptized and in which they had been married.
    Since Griffin was born in Mexico, but moved with his parents to Centralia years later, people in both communities remember him with much affection and gratitude for his service and sacrifice.
    Writing as one of hundreds reminiscing about Griffin on on the "memories of mexico" group site, Ginny Waggett Pearl, said, "...I got out my Cline cedar 'chest' and found [his MIA bracelet]. I'm speechless...but so thankful for Rodney's family. Through all the passing years, I wondered if I would ever know the rest of his story, but thanks to wonders of Facebook, I do. I will try to keep up with The Ledger on line for more of this story...I will be wearing the bracelet again in his memory..."
    Christine Logston in Mexico is one of many who have shared their experience of remembering Griffin's service and sacrifice. "I knew my 4-H club was going to see the Wall in Washington, D.C. on a trip in 1993, and I asked my Mom if she knew of anyone whose name was on the wall. She gave me his name to look up," she said.
    Lisa Broemser Arnold remembers, "I was just a child when Rodney, his mom, Opal, and some of his other family came over to our house in Mexico just before he was to be deployed overseas. I remember a lot of hugging, telling him we'd be seeing him in no time...I also remember when he went missing...The tears, concerns, and attempts by his mom to contact people in Washington as to where her son was...I saw his name on the wall of POWs and MIAs in 1994 in Washington, D.C while attending a nursing conference. I know everyone who knew him will rest much easier tonight, knowing he is coming home for good."
    By January, 1973, Rodney's late mother, Mrs. George Griffin, was getting "about 15 letters a week from people all over the country who are wearing Rodney's bracelet. The family estimates at least 200 have the steel bracelets with Rodney's name, designating him as a prisoner of war/missing in action. People all over the country are obtaining the bracelets which are to be worn continually until the young men are found or their fates known," The Mexico Ledger reported on Jan. 17 that year.
    Instead of finishing his year tour of duty and coming home, or even enjoying his R and R with her after almost six months in combat, Griffin and his wife never saw one other again after he deployed for Vietnam.
    However, although Donna re-married 20 years ago, with two grown sons and her first grandchild, a baby girl, born last Thanksgiving, she keeps vigil from her home in California, along with his family and friends here.
    Now she awaits word for the plans to, finally, to bring him home.
     

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  2. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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  3. Owen

    Owen O

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  4. buk2112

    buk2112 Member

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    Owen, the link you provided is to the cemetery that his remains maybe buried in. A plot was purchased next to his parents years ago in case his remains were ever found. This is what most everyone believes what will happen, however Arlington is also being discussed. A representative is to meet with the widow this friday to finalize the arrangements.
     
  5. Owen

    Owen O

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    I thought I'd linked t oa map the crash site in Cambodia .
    Doesn't it show that?
     
  6. TD-Tommy776

    TD-Tommy776 Man of Constant Sorrow

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    You are correct, Owen. You link goes to the photo section of his memorial page. The image you linked to is indeed a map of the crash site.
     
  7. buk2112

    buk2112 Member

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    Sgt. Griffin made the final leg of his long journey home today. His remains arrived at approximately 10;45 a.m. this morning at the airport in St. Louis. I had the honor of being apart of the escort home for Sgt. Griffin, an experience I do not believe I will soon forget. On hand to see him home today were his brother Darryl, his former wife Donna who had flown in from California, members from the Centralia V.F.W., members from my Centralia American Legion post, and many friends. Approximately 100 Patriot Guard Riders led off the escort after regular Army soldiers had loaded the casket into the hearse with precision and care. Kudos to the Patriot Guard Riders for taking the time to make this 120 mile trip, thanks guys for all you do. The weather could hardly have been better, not hardly a cloud in the sky and the temp. warmed into the sixties. The planned route was to travel down I-70, exit onto Hwy 19, then Hwy 54 with the final destination to be Arnold's Funeral Home in Mexico Missouri. The show of patriotism and respect along the entire route was truly amazing and heartwarming. At nearly every overpass along I-70 groups of people turned out to show their respects, saluting , flag waving etc. The portion of the trip that most touched my heart was traveling down rural Hwy 19 which passes through the three small towns of Montgomery City, Wellsville and Martinsburg. Folks lining all along their main streets on both sides, their local American Legion members standing at crisp attention and at present arms. The sight of hundreds of school children standing in the grass beside the road with hands on heart made it hard for me to fight back the tears. Today really opened up my eyes to how much people care. Tomorrow will be a big day in preparing for memorial services on Saturday in Centralia. There will be 400 flags to be erected in the city cemetery, and 2200 3' x 5' flags to be placed along the route to the Centralia High School where memorial services will be held at 9 a.m. Saturday morning. I've been told the Patriot Guard Riders are estimating to have over 500 riders provide escort from Arnold's Funeral Home in Mexico to the High School in Centralia. Burial is to be next to his parents in the Eastlawn Cemetery in Mexico.

    WELCOME HOME, SGT. GRIFFIN !
     
  8. buk2112

    buk2112 Member

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    This is one of the most recent articles written in Centralia's newspaper The Fireside Guard.





    Centralia’s Griffin returning home to Mid-Missouri
    Posted on Tuesday, April 21, 2015 at 2:54 pm









    After almost 45 years to the day he and his fellow soldiers went missing during the firefight that followed their helicopter crash in Cambodia, Sgt. Rodney Griffin is coming home.
    According to Dennis Mills, a local veteran of the Vietnam War and spokesman for the local chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, a Cambodian who, as a six-year-old, saw the actual crash before being chased from the area by North Vietnamese soldiers discovered Griffin’s remains years later.
    Sgt. Rodney L. Griffin, U.S. Army, KIA, will be posthumously honored Saturday at CHS for his service and sacrifice during the Vietnam War.

    [​IMG]
    Sgt. Rodney L. Griffin, U.S. Army, KIA, will be posthumously honored Saturday at CHS for his service and sacrifice during the Vietnam War.

    Or, Mills said, they were found by the NVA decades later where Griffin’s remains had been buried along with two of his fellow soldiers. Reports vary.

    Now, after many years and many leads, Mills said Griffin is coming back to Centralia, at least for a bit, before being buried next to his brother Bill Griffin in Mexico’s East Lawn cemetery. The family, Mills said, requested that the graveside services be private.
    “The family waited decades for him to be laid to rest. It’s a shame his parents George and Opal Griffin did not live to see him come home,” Mills said. “He outlasted them both.”
    Griffin’s homecoming starts, Mills said, with his remains arriving at Lambert Airport, St. Louis, 10:46 a.m., Thursday, April 23. An honor guard is scheduled to convey Griffin’s casket from the jet to a hearse, which should arrive at Arnold’s Funeral Home in Mexico. Mills said there would be a private visitation there for the family.
    For the complete article, please see this week’s edition of the Centralia Fireside Guard.
     

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