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.
INDIANAPOLIS – Five days before Christmas in 1972 Joe Stuart will always remember – but not for any holiday cheer.
“We came home,” Stuart recalls. “My sister comes running to the door and says mom there’s some Air Force men in the house.”
Stuart’s dad, Lt. Col. John Stuart, was why the men were there, delivering a message that had become all too familiar at that point in the Vietnam War.
“They said he was missing, that his plane was shot down over Vietnam, over Hanoi,” Stuart said.
Like families nationwide, the Stuart’s went on to live through the agony of speculation, questions and sometimes just pure imagination about what happened to the B52 carrying the crew of six that day, including Lt. Col. Stuart.
Eventually government officials determined the B52 burst into flames.
Heavy enemy fire was reported that day.
Two crew members did survive, it was later revealed, and held prisoners of war.
Lt. Col. Stuart didn’t survive; today his case is still listed as “missing in action, body not recovered.”
“You know he had a very lengthy military service,” Stuart said. “A very honorable record in the military and it’s something that should be honored and respected for what he did.”
Last year Stuart took his message that message to Washington, pushing federal officials to keep investigating.
“They’re going back this year,” he said. “And as I’m told to do another on-site investigation. And they’re also thinking they know where the tail section of my dad’s aircraft could have sent to because of the way it was hit by three surface to air missiles.”
Stuart is also working with Arlington National Cemetery, pushing for a memorial with full honors for his dad, despite no body or remains.
“There’s a lot of us out there, sons and daughters who remember our fathers, from all wars,” Stuart said. “We’re just trying to bring them back home and whatever can be. But we won’t forget them.”