A Tennessee soldier who was killed in a plane crash almost fifty years ago will finally be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.
According to the State Department of Veterans Affairs, Staff Sergeant Lawrence Woods of Clarksville was among eight service members killed in a plane crash in Vietnam on October 24, 1964. He was the first Tennessean to be declared missing in action leading up to the Vietnam War.
Woods was a member of the 5th Special Forces Group based out of Fort Campbell. He lived there with his wife, Francis, and three children when he was killed.
U.S. Forces were able to recover the bodies of everyone on the plane except for Staff Sergeant Woods, until recently. Crews from the U.S., Cambodia, and Vietnam coordinated a series of searches from 1997 to 2010, and were finally able to excavate the wreckage of the plane and find Woods' remains.
Woods will be buried during a group burial at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C. on March 21. Governor Bill Haslam has declared that a day of mourning and ordered flags at half-staff from sunrise to sunset in honor of Staff Sergeant Woods' ultimate sacrifice..
"The State of Tennessee pauses to recognize and remember the ultimate sacrifice of Staff Sergeant Lawrence Woods, and we hope the upcoming ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery offers the Woods family some peace and solace after these many years," Haslam said.
"It is bittersweet to welcome Staff Sergeant Woods home to American soil as a hero who served with courage and valor," Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder said. "We are grateful his family has finally received the closure of this news and the ability to bury their loved one."
Wood was 39 years old at the time of the crash.
Lisa Szymanski was only 13 years old when her father was declared missing. "He was a really good dad with a beautiful sense of humor and I remember he was always helping people," Szymanksi said. "The memories are flooding back as we prepare for this time of closure."
Woods is survived by daughter Lisa C. Szymanski of Fort Myers, Florida, son Steven R. Woods of Clarksville, daughter Deborah A. Secriskey of Hermitage, Tennessee, sister Rozzellar Biniecki of Hammond, Indiana, sister Betty Jewel Tucker of Highland, Indiana, sister Ophelia Willoughby of Huntsville, Alabama and brother William Woods of Dyer, Indiana as well as six grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren.