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A Long Journey Home - Missing Vietnam War Soldier's Remains Identified

<P class=MsoNormal style="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt; mso-layout-grid-align: none"><font size=3><span style="FONT-FAMILY: Arial">This month, the Department of Defense notified the family of David Lemcke that his remains had been found in </span><?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" /><st1:country-region><st1:place><span style="FONT-FAMILY: Arial">Vietnam</span></st1:place></st1:country-region><span style="FONT-FAMILY: Arial">.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes">&nbsp; </span>This is the story of Sergeant Lemcke and the extraordinary search for his remains, more than four decades after he was killed in the Vietnam War.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /><o:p></o:p></span></font></P>

In the village of Hilton, in the small town of Parma, David Lemcke's spirit looms large.  Even if they don't know his story, strangers can see his name on a sign over the highway renamed in his honor.  Lemcke's sister Lise was 13 years old when David was reported Missing in Action in the Vietnam War.  "It was hell," she says.

 

On May 21st, 1968, 5 months into his deployment, 20-year-old Private First Class Lemcke died in a bunker explosion in Quang Tri Province, Vietnam.   Two other men were killed too, but Lemcke's remains were never found.  It took decades, but the search for David took a dramatic turn last year.  In August 2010, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command informed the Lemcke family a team had traveled to Vietnam, and finally located the bunker where David had died.

 

9 months later, they began excavating a farm field.  Aided by a backhoe, the crew dug ten feet into the ground.  What they found is a miracle: David's dog tag,

a portion of his military ID, the lenses from his eyeglasses, and human remains later identified by dental match. This September, the Lemcke family finally got the call:  David had been found.  "It just sends chills," says Lise. "I was flabbergasted, I was crying, and I was grateful." 

 

David Lemcke never aspired to be a soldier.  The oldest of five kids, he was a devoted brother who taught his siblings how to fish and play baseball. He loved animals.  When he was 15, he bought a horse, and cared for it on the acre and a half of land behind the family farmhouse on Parma Center Road.  When he graduated from high school he went to work for a veterinarian.  But then the draft came, and David answered the call of duty.

 

Hilton resident Ken Moore is president of the local chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America.  At the Dakota Grill, he points to Lemcke's picture, on a wall of pictures dedicated to Hilton's finest. Moore began wearing Lemcke's POW bracelet in 1970. "I was happy but it's sad," he says.  "It's been a long time.  I just hope it's some closure for his family."

For Lemcke's family, his homecoming is bittersweet. David's father Howard died in 1973.  His mother Elsie, in 1995. "The night before dad died, he dreamt he was chasing horses, and he and Dave went to get 'em," Lise says.  "It brings such emotional closure.  I hate that word.  It brings you closure, peace.  But there's a very high price for that peace, and not everybody understands that."

 

David Lemcke will be buried in the Parma Union Cemetery, next to his parents

and directly across the street where he grew up.  After 43 long years, a native son makes the sacred journey home.


David Lemcke was promoted posthumously to Sergeant.  His calling hours will be held on Veterans Day, November 11th from 3pm until 8 pm at the Thomas Burger Funeral Home in Hilton.  The funeral service will be November 12th at 11 am at the Greece First Baptist Church on Manitou Road.

 



 

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