Sergeant First Class Alan Lee Boyer, U.S. Army Special Forces, a Green Beret, had been MIA in Laos since 1968. His remains were located and interred at Arlington National Cemetery in 2016. A DNA match identified him. The Rockford Vietnam2Now Post is named in his honor.

The third Friday of September is known as National POW and MIA Remembrance Day, which was established to honor prisoners of war and those still missing in action. The Rockford chapter of Vietnam2Now once again hosted a ceremony in its honor.

This year’s ceremony is the organization’s 27th year commemorating the day and it also honored the group’s former pastor, Bob Theroux, who passed away last year. When the COVID pandemic began, the group presented a video at the annual ceremony Sept. 16 at the Loves Park City Hall and it was well attended.

There are probably over 2,000 to 2,500 veterans of other wars in the U.S. that have never returned. There are ceremonies held in twelve different countries where some are buried. These are important gestures for those service people and their families in order to honor those veterans and their families who were never able to see their loved ones again.

The National POW and MIA Remembrance Day goes back to the Jimmy Carter administration in 1979. But it didn’t come until the 1990s that U.S. Congress officially declared the third Friday in September as the Remembrance Day.

Locally, the Vietnam2Now Chapter remembers Sergeant First Class Alan Lee Boyer, U.S. Army Special Forces, a Green Beret, who went missing on March 28, 1968, while on a reconnaissance mission several miles inside of Laos, along with two other American sergeants and seven South Vietnamese soldiers. They came under heavy enemy fire and requested extraction.

Because of rough terrain the helicopter couldn’t land and a rope ladder was extended. The seven South Vietnamese (ARVN) were extracted and Alan was starting to climb the rope ladder when it either caught on jungle foliage or was shot away, aborting the mission and stranding the three Americans.

A subsequent search party a few days later could find no trace of them. Alan was listed as Missing in Action for nearly 48 years. His remains had been given by three Lao Nationals (“remains traders”) to an activist in Laos who turned them in. Alan’s sister, Judy Boyer Bouchard, was notified that Alan’s remains had been recovered and she was presented with Alan’s medals, including the Silver Star (the third highest military decoration awarded) and a Purple Heart (awarded to troops who were wounded in action).

It will probably never be known just exactly when and where Alan died but now he is home. Alan’s interment took place at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors on Wednesday, June 22, of this year.”

Music is always very much a part of the remembrance ceremony, a favorite besides the “Star Spangled Banner” is Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA,” along with recognition of veterans of the various branches of the service. Sandra and Rodney Cain are annual contributors leading attendees in the National Anthem.

Gold Star Mother Angie White, whose son, Ken, was killed in Vietnam in 1969, attends the event faithfully every year. Quoting from a couple of letters Ken wrote home, in his own words are some of his thoughts on what was happening at the time: “I don’t like this war, or what I am doing, but I do believe in what I am fighting for and I’ll continue to fight as long as I have to. I have seen men die for their country because they wanted to keep America free for themselves and for their families.

“What a price to pay – but it has been paid many times over here in Vietnam…I’ll fight the best I can and so much as I can to help…and I know as I lead other men I’ll be leading them for something great and precious to us all.”

Guest speaker this year was Mark Finnegan of Finnegan’s RV in South Beloit, creators of the Vets Roll program in 2010.

After “Taps” was played, fellowship and refreshments in the city hall cafeteria followed.

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