SAN ANTONIO --San Antonio International Airport fire trucks shot streams of water over the bow of American Airlines Flight 497. The water cannon salute provided a hero’s welcome for a man whose last flight left a two-year old girl wondering where daddy went.
“I always knew that my dad was missing. It was difficult: always a void, an open hole,” said Lea Ann Wall McCann. She is saying goodbye to a father she only knew through pictures--Airman Jerry Mack Wall.
Wall was a load-master on board a C-123. He was declared “missing in action” after his cargo plane was shot down over Southern Vietnam in 1966. Bodies were recovered at the crash site that day, but not his.
“We never knew what happened to him, not really,” said Wall’s widow, Verna George Teer. Teer said the mystery surrounding her husband fueled hope. But when days turned to years, she eventually remarried. Teer said she never forgot him.
“I always wondered what kind of life I would’ve had, if he hadn’t been killed. I’ve always loved him. I never stopped loving him,” said Teer.
Airman Wall was a young man with a tough job loading, and then unloading and dropping flares from the skies over Southern Vietnam. The Air Force called them “candlestick missions.”
According to military officials, friendly ground forces watched as Wall’s aircraft took enemy gunfire and crash May 18, 1966.
“In war, you get these initial reports; you don’t know what to believe. You’re getting sketchy details of what happened. Of course, hope is the one thing you hang on to, but it begins to fade over time,” said brother Larry Wall.
But hope was renewed late last year, when investigators with the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command positively identified Wall’s remains through DNA testing, and found his ID tags at the crash site.
The discoveries would jump-start his journey home and a family reunion, 46 years in the making.
“He’s home. He’s on his home soil today. He’s not somewhere else. And that’s what I’m most proud of: the fact that we don’t forget about him,” said his daughter.