Editor's note: This Friday marks National POW, MIA Recognition Day, a moment to honor service members who are still considered Missing in Action or Prisoner of War. This week, CBS4 will share the stories of three men who are still among the 50 Hoosiers still unaccounted for from the Vietnam War.
The memories flood back as if it were yesterday.
“A big blue car pulled in and two Air Force members got out,” Kay Martinez recalls.
She was just 10-years-old at the time on that Sunday afternoon in 1966.
“And dad was looking out the window and he was crying,” she said. “He knew.”
Kay’s brother, Chief Master Sgt. Dean Du Vall was an airman in Vietnam.
He wrote her often. But the message the family received that Sunday would lead to decades of questions and mystery about what exactly happened to Dean.
“We can only speculate,” Jack Du Vall said, Dean’s brother. “So much we have to speculate.”
Jack still sifts through the boxes of government reports and investigations.
For decades the family was only told Sgt. Du Vall's plan didn’t return to Vietnam.
Agony filled those early years when pictures from the government would arrive, pictures of American POW’s in Vietnam that family members were asked to identify as potentially their loved ones.
“Mom would sit with a magnifying glass,” Martinez said. “As they got off the planes, you looked at each one of them and just hoped he was going to be the next one off. Maybe they made a mistake.”
The government officially closed Sgt. Du Vall's case in the late 1970s, no longer classified as missing in action, but now killed in action.
It wasn’t, though, until the early 2000s that a potential crash site was revealed, not on Vietnam but in Laos, which fueled answers but even more questions for Sgt. Du Vall's family.
“Maybe releasing more information you come to a different conclusion on what’s going on there,” Jack said. “I have.”
In 2010 the government started excavating the crash site, a process that took four years where scientists unearthed new details about what happened, even finding some human remains.
Jack and Kay made plans to escort their brother’s home.
But then came another devastating blow.
“He says they are no remains,” Jack said. “Just like that.”
To this day, Sgt. Du Vall's remains have not been found.
Physical evidence, like dog tags and Geneva convention cards, were found for five of the seven members on the plane, but no physical evidence for Sgt. Du Vall.
Memories and honors of their brother’s heroics are left to awards and stories and questions about a mission and a war that haunts them to this day.
After the 2014 excavation provided no remains, Sgt. Du Vall's family held a memorial service in his honor and this past summer a bridge in Monticello was named in his honor.
“Unless we’re being sent down another trail, we have to believe them,” Jack said. “We have to accept it. We have no proof of not.”
And hope still remains that someday Sgt. Du Vall's remains will return home.