More Than 40 Years Later, Air Force Captain Accounted For, Honored in D.C.
Written by Communications Intern, Kalli McCoy
On December 30, 1969, Captain Douglas David Ferguson of Tacoma, Washington was on an armed reconnaissance mission over Houaphan Province, Laos. After his F-4D Phantom II aircraft crashed, he would remain there, Missing In Action (MIA), for over 40 years, until his remains was finally accounted for on February 14, 2014.
On Mother’s Day of this year, Ferguson, along with four others, had a diamond superimposed over the cross by their names on The Wall in Washington, D.C., during the annual Name Additions Ceremony. This diamond symbolizes closure, over the cross inscribed for those listed as MIA/POW.
The annual Name Additions on Mother’s Day Ceremony provides final closure for families of those who are recently accounted for from the Vietnam War, and welcomes those who made the ultimate sacrifice home. Families of servicemembers receiving a status change or name addition gather on the East Knoll, next to The Wall, for a solemn ceremony that celebrates the life of the service members, while remembering all those who remain unaccounted for.
Until a year ago, Douglas Ferguson was one of them.
For as long as his family could remember, Ferguson had wanted to fly. He started with little model air planes and worked up to learning to fly real airplanes at a small airport near his childhood home. He continued this passion throughout his school years then attended the Air Force Academy. He graduated in 1967, and with each training, he got closer and closer to his dream of becoming a pilot. Eventually, he was assigned to the 555th Tactical Air Squadron stationed in Udorn, Thailand.
Through it all, Ferguson learned to cope with the struggles and stress overseas.
His sister, Sue Scott says, “he had the most incredible sense of humor, and I think this is what helped him manage stress when he was over there.”
Ferguson would serve bravely in Vietnam, until his death in 1969.
After his identification in early 2014, Ferguson was honorably escorted to his hometown on May 1, 2014.
He was greeted at the gate by a Water Cannon Salute by the City of the Port of SEA TAC Fire Department, which paid tribute to his final flight. The Patriot Guard, in Missing Man Formation, carried him gently to Tacoma’s Mt. View Memorial Park and Funeral Home, as he was saluted by Fire Departments who displayed an American Flag from their crossed ladders. The next day, Ferguson was again escorted by the Patriot Guard to the Joint Base Lewis McChord for a Celebration of Life Service. A final tribute of a flyover by the Black Jack Squadron ended “two days of tributes and the celebration of a short life well lived.”
Ferguson’s sister hopes that people will “use Doug as inspiration,” saying, “he knew what he wanted and he went after it. He loved flying, so that’s what he did.”
Scott remembers him not only as a hero who used his plane to draw fire away from other pilots, but as a younger brother who she could play with for hours on end. She aims to “help people see who he was,” and does this through maintaining a memorial website for Ferguson.
This year’s Name Additions on Mother’s Day Ceremony did only so much to honor Ferguson’s legacy, and now the status of “KIA” next to his name, which denotes that the service member’s death was confirmed, will ensure future generations never forget his sacrifice for his country.
Part of VVMF’s mission is to preserve the legacy of The Wall, and in doing so, ensures the sacrifices of our Vietnam veterans are never forgotten.
By adding new names to the memorial, VVMF continues to show that the nation should show gratitude towards our Vietnam veterans.
Vietnam still matters. Our service members matter.
Ferguson’s sister would rightfully say, “There was a promise made, when they signed up to sacrifice for their country, and honoring them is the least we can do, the very least.”
To learn about events like VVMF’s annual Name Additions on Mother’s Day Ceremony, click here.