Daughter longs for closure 49 years after father went missing in action

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Lt. Col Kenneth Stonebraker

On October 28, 1968, Air Force Lt. Col. Kenneth Stonebraker left Udorn Airfield in Thailand on a solo night reconnaissance mission over North Vietnam and never returned. For his daughter, Cindy, it’s been decades of unanswered questions and continued uncertainty.

“I have been longing for closure for 49 years,” she said. “Not just about what happened to him but the man he was. What was his favorite color? What was his favorite hobby? The everyday stuff that kids knew about their fathers.”

The Wall in Washington, D.C. honors all who served and lost their lives in the Vietnam War. The Wall also bears the names of those who were listed as missing in action when The Wall was built in 1982 and remain unaccounted for today. Those who remain unaccounted for have a “cross” or “plus” symbol next to their name. For Cindy, The Wall shows that her father’s sacrifice is never forgotten.

“I made my first trip to the Wall in December 2012 and I cannot describe, in words, what it was like to see my dad’s name etched on Panel 40 West, Line 51,” she said. “For the first time, I truly felt that he was being honored, that he was not forgotten. It was very important to me because for 45 years I thought he had been forgotten and that nobody cared.”

While The Wall was able to bring some level of comfort to Cindy, it is also a reminder of the uncertainty many families face as they wait for answers.

“There are…families just like mine, with loved ones still missing and otherwise unaccounted for,” Cindy said. “So many mothers and fathers have passed away without knowing what happened to their children and were unable to give them a proper homecoming with the honor that a hero deserves.”

The Wall is one of the few places loved ones can pay their respects to their fallen heroes. It’s a place that offers some healing.

“Having a memorial like the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is very important for the families of those listed on The Wall, especially those with the crosses next to their name,” Cindy added. “For us there is nowhere else to go and honor our loved ones. There are no cemeteries or graves so seeing them honored is very important.”

The need for closure still remains. Cindy holds onto hope that her father will one day be accounted for.

“We cannot give up on finding the service members who are missing and otherwise unaccounted for,” she added. “They fought for our freedom and deserve to be brought home. Our active military needs the reassurance that if something happened to them, they will not be left. We can only give them that by example, by bringing home those who served before them. Now is the time to renew our dedication to seeking answers.”

This story was compiled by Scott Lynch