At long last, Bunyan Price Jr.’s siblings can stop grieving.
They’ll never stop remembering – but pain has the opportunity to finally subside.
On May 2, 1970, Price, a 20-year-old Army specialist in Vietnam, was a passenger with seven other Americans on a helicopter that had crossed into Cambodia to avoid a rain squall and was hit by enemy ground fire. The aircraft landed burning in a rice field and all eight survived. But three, including Price, were likely killed that day by attacking Viet Cong and buried in a grave together.
Their remains were found last year. In April, Junior’s four siblings buried some of his remains identified by DNA next to his parents at Greenwood Cemetery in Belmont, near where he grew up.
On Tuesday, the rest of the remains found in the grave will be placed in a coffin with the remains of the two other men he died with that day 45 years ago and be buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery. Those remains couldn’t be confirmed by DNA.
His brother and three sisters, all from the Charlotte region, will make the trip Sunday to the cemetery outside Washington, D.C. On Monday, they will meet the families of the other two men, Dale Richardson, an Army major from Illinois, and Rodney Griffin, an Army sergeant from Montana.
“For me, it’s going to be a closure for good,” said sister Wanda Hanley of Charlotte. “They’ll have all the remains together, and it will feel like all of Junior is here.”
For 45 years, his family held out hope. They’d received no official evidence that he’d died. An uncle had been a POW in Germany during World War II, escaped on a train and came home.
“They all thought he was dead,” Hanley said. “We had hope for Junior.”
For years, Junior was listed MIA. Some reports said he was a POW – like his uncle. Since the 1970s, teams from the federal Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency scoured the crash site 13 timesand dug for remains six times, reports show, after interviewing former Viet Cong troops and POW camp supervisors.
For me, it’s going to be a closure for good. They’ll have all the remains together and it will feel like all of Junior is here.
Wanda Hanley of Charlotte, Bunyan Price Jr.’s sister
Then in April 2014, they uncovered a grave with human remains. Using DNA from his siblings, some of Junior’s remains were confirmed.They were mixed in with those of Richardson and Griffin.
Hanley and brother Dennis Price of Gastonia, weren’t convinced until they heard in April what had happened from the helicopter’s co-pilot, Dan Maslowski of Charleston.
On Saturday, Dennis was nervous about the trip, saying the anticipation triggered old feelings. He said he looked forward to meeting relatives of the two men who died with Junior.
“Also there’s supposed to be some of the people in his platoon there,” Dennis said. “It will feel good to hear stories about my brother. I do think it will bring final closure. But right now it’s not feeling good. Junior was my hero.”