Cobb to honor no-longer unknown Vietnam War veteran

During a free event from 10 a.m. to noon July 29 at the Cobb County Civic Center, the story will be told of the former Vietnam Unknown Soldier by his sister. (U.S. Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser / Arlington National Cemetery / released)

Credit: (U.S. Army photo by Elizabeth Fr

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During a free event from 10 a.m. to noon July 29 at the Cobb County Civic Center, the story will be told of the former Vietnam Unknown Soldier by his sister. (U.S. Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser / Arlington National Cemetery / released)

Credit: (U.S. Army photo by Elizabeth Fr

Once buried in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C., the remains of Air Force 1st Lt. Michael Blassie became the unknown service member from the Vietnam War in 1984.

However, due to the perseverance of 1st Lt. Blassie’s family, he was restored his name on July 11, 1998 when his remains were identified properly and later reburied at Jefferson Barrack National Cemetery in Saint Louis, Missouri.

As a free event in Cobb County, 1st Lt. Blassie’s story will be told by his sister Col. Patricia Blassie, USAF (Retired), from 10 a.m. to noon July 29 at the Cobb County Civic Center, 548 S. Marietta Parkway SE, Marietta.

The program will be hosted by the Cobb Chamber Honorary Commanders Association and Cobb County Government.

Honorary Commanders is a cooperative effort of the Cobb Chamber, Dobbins Air Reserve Base (ARB), General Lucius D. Clay National Guard Center and Navy and Marine Corps.

Annually, the Honorary Commanders Association selects community and business leaders and pairs them with military commanders in a yearlong program, giving those leaders the opportunity to learn more about local military activities, their impact on the local economy and various aspects of the national defense system.

After graduating from the United States Air Force Academy in 1970, 1st Lt. Blassie was trained and deployed to fly fast attack aircraft during the Vietnam War.

Following 130 successful combat missions came an ill-fated May 11, 1972 strike on an enemy artillery position when 1st Lt. Blassie’s A-37 was hit by anti-aircraft fire, bursting into flames and exploding on impact behind enemy lines.

Accounts by his flight commander indicated that 1st Lt. Blassie likely had been killed instantly.

Search and rescue attempts had been thwarted by resistance; and the following day, an Air Force chaplain visited his parents to inform them of their son being killed in action and his body being unrecoverable.

This was the official account the family was given for the next 26 years.

However, near the end of 1972 - the year of the crash, a South Vietnamese Army patrol located the crash along with the remains and personal effects of 1st Lt. Blassie, including his identification card.

Over the next several years and throughout a long series of post-mortem handling and processing of those remains, official identification confirmation was never made.

In the early 1980s, with pressure being applied by organizations anxious to see the nation’s soldiers, sailors and airmen of Vietnam recognized, an “unknown” was being considered for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C.

On May 28, 1984, the remains recovered from the May 11, 1972 crash of an Air Force A-37 were awarded the Medal of Honor by President Ronald Reagan in ceremonies at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

1st Lt. Blassie’s remains were only among the few buried in this national shrine - in 1921 for a World War I service member, in 1958 one from World War II and one from the Korean War and 1984, according to arlingtoncemetery.mil/Explore/Tomb-of-the-Unknown-Soldier.

In 1984, the remains of 1st Lt. Blassie were the only set of recovered American remains from Vietnam that had not been fully identified until 1998.

The crypt for the Vietnam War Unknown remains vacant.

On Sept. 17, 1999 - National POW/MIA Recognition Day, that crypt was rededicated to honor all missing U.S. service members from the Vietnam War.

For those who have been fully vaccinated (second dose has been at least two weeks before the event), masks will not be required at this event.

Those who have not been fully vaccinated will be required to wear masks and maintain 3 1/2 feet of social distancing throughout the event.

Register: bit.ly/3BDg8i6