823 – Texas family finds closure for a death in Vietnam

Robert Russell “Bear” Barnett, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

Debra Coffey, displaying her father’s medals and other items from his service in the Air Force, is thrilled that military officials never stopped looking for her father’s remains after he was shot down in 1966 in Laos. Coffey and her family hope to have a funeral service in April, 51 years after her father’s death in the line of duty.

Robert Russell “Bear” Barnett, vietnam veteran news, mack payne

Robert Russell “Bear” Barnett was killed in a bombing run over Laos in 1966.

In this episode we will look at another story of closure for the family of a fallen hero in the Vietnam War. The story comes from The Waco Tribune titled: Family finds finality 50 years after father died in Vietnam War by Tommy Witherspoon twitherspoon@wacotrib.com. In the story Witherspoon tells about how the family of Robert Russell “Bear” Barnett found closure. Barnett was a captain in the US Air Force flying bombing missions out of DaNang when his B-57 was shot down on April 7, 1966. The Air Force at the time concluded him as presumed dead, missing in action, body not recovered.

His family was devastated by the news and their grief was compounded because there were no remains which prevented them from conducting a proper funeral and burial. After many years of grieving for their father, Barnett’s daughters, Debra Coffey, her sister, D’Lynn, and their mother, Betty Sue, heard from the Department of Defense in 2005. They were informed the location of the crash site was found. It was identified by a piece of the tail section of the B-57 Barnett was flying the day he died.

The family was excited about the news until they were informed many crash sites were being identified and it may take some time before excavation at Barnett’s crash site could begin. About one year later they were officially informed by the Department of Defense a body part was found that allowed positive identification of their father. It was a difficult task because the crash site was in a remote mountainous area with dense jungle vegetation. After a thorough search of the debris field from Barnett’s bomber that stretched for more than 300 yards.

In addition to Barnett’s body part the search team found his co-pilot’s dog tags, a Zippo lighter case, fabric from a boot and flight suits, parts of flotation devices, oxygen hoses and parachute remnants.

Robert Russell “Bear” Barnett’s are planning to have a memorial service for him on April 7, 2017, the 51st anniversary of the date of his death. They intend to bury his remains at the Texas State Cemetery in Austin if their application is approved.


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