American hero laid to rest after 45 years

July 16, 2011 4:28:27 PM PDT
After 45 years of waiting, a family's hero has finally been laid to rest on American soil. Lt. Commander William Patrick Eagan never knew most of the people who attended his funeral Saturday. Still, they came to honor him.

"I don't need to know him. My mom brought me up as an American, and my son stands tall for this country," said Melanie Willis with Blue Star Mothers.

The U.S. Navy lieutenant commander was last seen in April 1966. He had just completed his mission from the USS Hancock when he was killed in action.

Eagan's niece, Linda Sanders, has dedicated herself to closing this chapter in their family's history.

"The only person we didn't have in the family was Pat, and for all these 45 or 47 years, we've missed him," she said. "All our parents wanted us to bring him home, and this generation brought him home."

Eagan's remains were recovered in December 2009 and identified through DNA in February of this year. This week, his family collected his remains at a formal procession at Bush Intercontinental Airport.

Saturday morning's burial was an emotional ceremon, for fellow Vietnam War veteran and Patriot Guard rider Jerry Turner.

"We didn't want to leave anybody over there, and we left a bunch. We've still got 1,800 that need to come home. So, every time we hear of one coming home, we're here for them," Turner said.

Sanders says any tears shed were tears of joy, peace, resolution and pride for a man who gave his life for his country.

"I feel wonderful. Absolutely wonderful," she said. "He's home."

Eagan was the recipient of a Purple Heart and a Silver Star.

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