A Vietnam MIA no more, San Antonio soldier laid to rest
Donald G. Carr Jr. of San Antonio was only 6 when his father, Army Maj. Donald Carr, 32, was killed in the crash of an observation plane while supporting a Green Beret reconnaisance team late in the Vietnam war.
The OV-10A Bronco went down in bad weather in 1971 over then-South Vietnam’s Kon Tum Province, bordering Laos and Cambodia. Troops on the ground reported hearing an explosion that they presumed was Carr’s aircraft, but searchers never found it. Carr was declared missing in action.
On Friday morning at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery, as a bugler played “Taps” under a young live oak tree, the honor guard that had accompanied the soldier’s poplar casket, his dog tags hanging from one handle, stood at attention before a solemn crowd of about 100 that included his only child.
“I never expected to get that call. None of us did,” said Carr, 52, after the honors had concluded. “It came in 2014 from the Army. I got chills. I was at work here at Sysco Foods. They had found my dad’s remains in Vietnam.”
A spring breeze whipped the flags surrounding the casket as Carr composed himself behind sunglasses.
“My mom just passed away four weeks ago and I really wish she could have been here,” he said. “How can you ever prepare for that moment, that call? I was excited to finally know what happened to him, but I don’t know that you would ever call it closure.”
His dad’s military commitments kept him constantly away from their North Side home, but the son cherishes memories of a few weekends when the pair were together, throwing a football or baseball.
“I’m proud of my father,” Carr said. “I’ve lived a good life, and he would be proud, too.”
Between September 1991 and March 2014, according to the Department of Defense, more than 25 investigations and site surveys were done by joint U.S. and Lao Peoples’ Democratic Republic teams in search of Carr’s remains. But none were found.
In April 2014, a Vietnamese citizen contacted American officials about a possible site of a U.S. plane crash. There, teams found wreckage, photos and personal effects that forensic scientists, using DNA analysis, were able to link to Carr - officially accounted for on Aug. 19, 2015.
“Now he’s home and among family,” said Bob Johnson, a ride captain of a veterans motorcycle group called Patriot Guard Riders, which military families often ask to appear at funerals.
“Every headstone here,” said Johnson, a Navy veteran, gesturing at the cemetery’s 158,081 gravesites, “is a brick that the rest of us stand on. Only one percent of our nation participates in the military, and we need to be reminded of their sacrifice.”
According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency there are 1,598 American soldiers and civilians still unaccounted for from the Vietnam War.
Bruce Selcraig is a San Antonio Express-News staff writer. | BSelcraig@express-news.net