Michael Ryan, 48, says his mother always told him his father died after his plane was shot down during the Vietnam War. He didn’t know that she only assumed that much for almost 50 years.
In a ceremony this weekend, Ryan’s father was finally laid to rest.
His father, Marine Corps Reserve First Lt. William Ryan, was flying a combat mission in 1969 when his plane took fire over southern Laos, near the Vietnamese border. While Ryan’s pilot successfully escaped the crash and was rescued, Ryan was never heard from again. But his remains were not found.
That changed last year, according to the Bergen Record. DNA tests performed by the POW/MIA Accounting Agency in the Department of Defense confirmed the identity of remains found in Laos as Ryan’s.
It took a series of trips to the crash site from 2012 to 2016 to locate and recover the remains.
In a heartbreaking development, William Ryan’s widow, Judith, was diagnosed with stomach cancer the day after the family received notice of Lt. Ryan’s remains.
She passed away just days before her late husband’s burial.
“I mean, look at the timing of it,” Lynn Quaid, 72, told the Record. Quaid introduced Judith and Billy Ryan to one another. “I do believe God had his hand in all of this. Maybe Judy was waiting for him to come home all this time.”
“To have their funerals within hours of each other, it’s sad. But it’s also perfect,” another relative, Pat Ryan, said. “It’s almost like it was meant to be.”
Michael Ryan attended his mother’s funeral on Tuesday and his father’s funeral on Wednesday.