Family to be reunited with fallen Vietnam vet

July 14, 2011 10:55:08 AM PDT
On Thursday, a Vietnam veteran who was missing for nearly 50 years will return to Texas to be laid to rest.

Lt. Commander William Eagan was last seen alive on April 26, 1966. He was flying an A-1 H Skyraider, bombing a military complex when his plane crashed into the middle of the thick jungle.

An American flag is flying outside the family's home in preparation for the homecoming. About 50 relatives will be waiting for the veteran this weekend, including his widow and four children.

"The first thing I would say is mission accomplished; those are the best words" said Linda Sanders.

Forty-five years is a long time to wait for someone to make it home.

"I always was worried about him, but I always knew he'd be home, eventually. I didn't think it was going to take this long," Sanders said.

US Navy Lt. Commander William Patrick Egan was Sanders' uncle, but they were born the same year, so he was more like a brother.

"He's a good man. He's still a good man," she said.

In April of 1966, Lt. Commander Eagan had just completed his mission from the USS Hancock when he was killed in action.

"Pat was our hero and he'll remain a hero. His great-great-grandchildren will know about him," Sanders said.

Eagan's remains were recovered in December 2009 and identified through DNA earlier in the year.

"You realize we're only getting a bone the size of a finger but it matched it my DNA so they told us that there may be more bones coming," Sanders said.

The family waited and prayed the day would come.

"It's like we've been released. Everybody can be happy now, we can go on with our lives," she said.

Never forgetting their family hero.

"Every one of our parents from the Eagan family have told each kid get Pat home," Sanders said.

And never giving up.

"Don't give hope. Wait for your person," she said.

Lt. Commander Eagan was very decorated. He was a recipient of the Purple Heart, a Silver Star.

His remains are expected to arrive at Bush Intercontinental Airport on Thursday. The Houston Police Department, the US Navy and the Patriot Riders will all be there to escort him to his final resting place at a local cemetery.

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