4 Our Veterans: Family keeps name, legacy alive of missing Vietnam vet

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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. 

ANDERSON, Ind. – Take a seat at the table of Earl and Su Lautzenheiser and you’ll quickly hear stories of great service, like from Earl’s service in World War II.

Earl and Su’s sons Peter and Michael served in Vietnam.

“They knew the sense of duty,” sister Beth Jones said.

But Vietnam is also where you’ll hear stories of great sacrifice.

“We were at a Halloween party,” Su recalls when she received the news.

Muncie native Specialist 5 Michael Lautzenheiser was missing. The chinook with 10 people aboard lost communication over the South China Sea.

“We were hopeful,” Jones said. “We had lots of questions and there weren’t any answers at that time.”

The news came at a tumultuous time in American culture.

“So many Americans were so opposed to America being there,” Su recalled.

The Lautzenheiser’s were thrust front-and-center in central Indiana. Lisa Hytinen, Mike’s sister, was just a young student in middle school.

“People who were in opposition to it, I was very defensive about it,” she said. “Because I felt, and to it the war in Vietnam, I felt they were blaming my brother.”

The Army eventually concluded no one on board survived.

Debris from the chinook was identified and some pieces may still be raised in coming years.

But Mike’s remains were never found.

“I don’t think of Mike every day,” Su said. “I’ve already accepted the fact that he’s gone and I’ll see him later. And that’s OK,” she said.

Mike’s honor, though, strongly lives on, not only in his numerous awards and stories of heroism but also in his nieces and nephews.

“Mike has a real legacy in our family because all of his siblings have children or grandchildren who are named after him,” Jones said.

The military is a way of life for the Lautzenheiser’s, evident in both life and in death.

“We hoped Mike was alive for a long time,” Jones said. “And then we thought he was not. And he was a strong Christian, so that was extremely helpful to us.”

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