COLUMBIA FALLS, Maine — Generally, a secret can stay on, nicely previous the lifetimes of those that saved them.
“For 57 years, we heard completely nothing,” mentioned Clifton Sargent. “It was a well-kept secret.”
To convey a secret to life, typically you must return: on this case, six a long time again in time.
Meet Jen Kirk.
“I’m the niece of Particular Fourth Donald A. Sargent, who was aboard the Flying Tiger Line Flight 739,” she mentioned.
Her uncle, SP4 Donald Sargent, was a U.S. Military Ranger. Sixty years in the past — on March 16, 1962 – he and 92 different U.S. troopers, together with 11 crew members and three troopers from South Vietnam, had been aboard Flying Tiger Line Flight 739.
For his or her family members, the main points of the mission stay a thriller.
“I believe he knew every thing that was coming down, however he wouldn’t inform a soul as a result of it was a prime army secret,” mentioned his brother, Clifton Sargent.
In keeping with federal paperwork, Flying Tiger Line Flight 739 had initially taken off from a base in California, with upkeep checks and refueling stops in Honolulu and Guam, earlier than a deliberate cease within the Philippines after which on to its last vacation spot of Vietnam.
It by no means arrived.
After departing Guam, the airplane vanished.
What occurred subsequent — on the time – grew to become the most important air and sea search ever carried out since Amelia Earhart’s disappearance a long time prior. Greater than 1,300 folks and 48 plane searched 144,000 sq. miles.
Investigators finally heard from an oil tanker crew that had been at sea in a distant space of the Pacific Ocean, the place the airplane possible would have been when it disappeared. They reported seeing an “intensely luminous” explosion within the sky.
Nevertheless, not a single hint of wreckage, nor any stays, had been ever discovered wherever.
Investigators concluded it was “unattainable to find out whether or not a mechanical/structural failure, or sabotage, occurred in flight.”
For Donald’s brother, Clifton Sargent, the previous six a long time have introduced little closure about what occurred.
“He was only a go-getting child from the nation,” he mentioned, remembering his brother, later including. “Generally, the rock strikes slowly to get it going downhill.”
Generally, carving into granite turns into the aim.
Sargent – together with relations of these misplaced on Flight 739 – have been in a years-long push to have these troopers’ names added onto the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C.
“Why? As a result of he went over there, or headed over there, with the identical means as the opposite boys on that wall fought and died,” Sargent mentioned.
There’s particular standards for that, although. The households say officers informed the names can’t be added as a result of though the airplane was en path to Vietnam, it went down exterior the official battle zone. The U.S. Division of Protection didn’t return our request for remark.
Over time, relations have gone to Capitol Hill, advocating on behalf of the misplaced troopers.
“That implies that they will not be forgotten, as a result of the minute you cease saying their identify and remembering them and honoring them – they’re gone,” mentioned Jen Kirk.
Presently, there’s Senate Invoice 2571, which might transfer so as to add the names of these on Flight 739 to the Vietnam Memorial. Senator Gary Peters, D-Michigan, launched the invoice and mentioned to us in a press release, “It’s previous time that we correctly honor these misplaced.”
Military Veteran Don Sargent, who is known as after his uncle, visited the Vietnam Wall in Washington and introduced a letter he wrote to his uncle.
“I simply needed him to know that I assumed that he deserved to be there – and that is what I put in a letter,” he mentioned, “And, you understand, type of indicating that I hope I used to be carrying his identify the way in which that he would have pleasure in me.”
Greater than 700 miles away from Washington, amid the dashing waters and forests of Maine, Morrill Worcester hatched a plan.
“I mentioned, you understand, ‘give me a bit of time and we’ll make that occur,’” Worcester recalled. “We’ll even have a monument along with your family members’ names on it.”
Worcester based Wreaths Throughout America. Every year, the group locations wreaths on tombstones at army cemeteries throughout the nation.
When Worcester heard about Flight 739, he determined they did deserve a spot on a wall.
So, he constructed one.
The memorial to these misplaced on Flight 739 is nestled amid the very timber which might be used to make the wreaths for army tombstones.
“The Vietnam Wall is great, clearly, and far, a lot bigger. It is for all of the those that gave their lives in Vietnam – and, frankly, I actually imagine these folks need to be on that Wall,” Worcester mentioned. “And sometime they could, you understand. However, proper now, that is the one place that they are memorialized.”
On a chilly winter’s day close to Columbia Falls, Maine, that’s the place they gathered.
Precisely 60 years to the day after their loss, households of these on Flight 739 honored their family members on the solely memorial on the earth that remembers their lives and deaths.
Among the many crowd had been Clifton Sargent and his daughter, Jen. She helped him stroll as much as the Flight 739 Memorial, the place he positioned his hand on his brother’s engraved identify.
But, there’s nonetheless yet one more journey they hope to make: to see all of these names, someday, engraved within the nation’s capital.
“For them to be on the [Vietnam] Wall implies that someone within the authorities lastly will acknowledge them — that they did stay, they had been human,” Jen Kirk mentioned. “They did sacrifice and it is their time.”