Air Force Intelligence School honor Colorado's last MIA Vietnam National Guardsman
By Capt. Kristin Haley, 140th Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 14, 2009
GOODFELLOW AFB, TEXAS -- The Air Force's Intelligence School named its Auditorium in honor of Colorado's last Missing in Action Guardsman from Vietnam. Colorado native, Maj. Perry H. Jefferson, was honored on Friday, April 10.
Members of the Colorado Air National Guard, as well as Perry Jefferson's brother, Mike Jefferson, traveled to Goodfellow AFB for the ceremony.
"Today, we say, 'Thank you,' to the family of Major Perry Jefferson and we honor him with the dedication of the Perry H. Jefferson Auditorium. We will never forget his sacrifice," said Brigadier General Trulan A. Eyre, 140th Wing Commander. He charged the intelligence school classes present at the ceremony to remember the story of Jefferson and continue to tell it, so that it will never be forgotten.
In April 1968 the 120th Tactical Fighter Squadron of the Colorado Air National Guard became the first intact Air National Guard unit to be called to active duty for combat operations in Vietnam. The unit deployed with F-100 Super Sabre jets to Phan Rang Air Base, South Vietnam. During the Wing's deployment, the Viet Cong had steadily increased their attacks on the base causing significant impact to flying operations. Then Capt. Jefferson volunteered to fly a routine aerial observation mission in the Army's O-1G Bird Dog aircraft in an effort to locate and identify the enemy forces. On April 3, 1969, just one week before he was scheduled to return home, Jefferson and Army 1st Lt. Arthur Ecklund took off on an intelligence mission at 0655L, call sign Seahorse 78, to the mountainous region of the Ninh Thuan Province. They never returned.
An exhaustive three day search ensued but hostile forces in the area prevented the discovery of the crash site. Jefferson and Ecklund were officially listed as Missing in Action April 6, 1969. In 1984, human remains were found near the location the Bird Dog was last seen and were later identified as Ecklund's. Then in 2001, a Vietnamese national living in California turned over what he believed were the remains of a U.S. serviceman found near a crashed aircraft. In October 2007, DNA and dental record analysis identified these remains as Jefferson's. On April 3, 2008 among family members and friends who served alongside him in Vietnam, Maj. Perry H. Jefferson was interned with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery. The ceremony included a 21-gun salute and an F-16 missing man formation flown by the 120th Fighter Squadron of the Colorado Air National Guard, Perry's squadron. Eyre led the formation over Arlington. He recalled, "There are certain moments in our lives that define our careers. For me, it was flying over the Potomac, over the Pentagon, and over Arlington in honor of a fellow Colorado Guardsman. ... I'll never forget it".
Perry Jefferson's name is etched on Panel 27W, Row 005 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington D.C. For years, a cross was etched beside his name signifying his Missing in Action status. In the weeks leading to Memorial Day in 2008, the cross was changed to a diamond marking his belated repatriation.