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

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Lt. Col Kenneth Stonebraker

This October 28th will mark 49 years since 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 Stonebraker, this October will also mark 49 years of unanswered questions and continued uncertainty.

“I have been longing for closure for 49 years,” says Stonebraker. “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.”

While The Wall in Washington, D.C. honors all of the service members killed in action during the Vietnam War, it also honors those who were declared missing in action and never found. Those who went missing in action are listed on The Wall with a cross next to their names. For Stonebraker, The Wall symbolizes that her father and his sacrifice are 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,” says Stonebraker. “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 Stonebraker, it also symbolizes the struggle for the families of our unreturned veterans.

“There are 1,605 families just like mine, with loved ones still missing and otherwise unaccounted for,” says Stonebraker. “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.”

For the families of service members who are unaccounted for, The Wall is one of the few places that can offer 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,” says Stonebraker. “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.”

For Stonebraker, the need for closure still remains. There is still hope that her father will be returned home one day.

“We cannot give up on finding the service members who are missing and otherwise unaccounted for,” says Stonebraker. “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.”

On September 15th, our nation will commemorate National POW/MIA Recognition Day. This year, VVMF and the National League of POW/MIA Families are joining together for a candlelight remembrance at The Wall in Washington, D.C., to honor and remember them. Show your gratitude for the sacrifices made for our country by sponsoring one or more candles before the deadline on September 1st.

This story was compiled by Scott Lynch