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Old 11-19-2017, 02:13 PM
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Arrow Space Coast family gets missing dad's Vietnam War dog tags -- 50 years after copter c

Space Coast family gets missing dad's Vietnam War dog tags -- 50 years after copter crash
By: Rick Neale, FLORIDA TODAY
RE: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/...ash/843640001/

Missing for 50 Years

THOUGH U.S. MILITARY RECOVERY TEAMS VISITED THE CRASH AREA IN NORTH VIETNAM'S QUÅNG BÌNH PROVINCE MANY TIMES, NO TRACE OF CO-PILOT RICHARD KIBBEY WAS FOUND. BUT AN UNEXPECTED BREAKTHROUGH OCCURRED.

Shortly after rescuing a downed American pilot behind enemy lines, Air Force Capt. Richard "Dick" Kibbey's first daring mission of the Vietnam War proved to be his last — haunting his grieving family for the next half-century.

North Vietnamese anti-aircraft fire raked the fuselage of Kibbey's HH-3E helicopter, which burst into flames on Feb. 6, 1967. The doomed "Jolly Green Giant" slammed into a sheer limestone cliff near the mountainous Mu Ghia Pass on the Laos-North Vietnam border.

Kibbey was listed as missing in action after the crash. His wife, Mary Ann, moved that summer from Vero Beach to North Wherry Housing on Patrick Air Force Base for emotional support, and their four children went on to graduate from Satellite High.

Mary Ann Kibbey received this telegram on Feb. 7, 1967, from Air Force Maj. Gen. G.B. Greene Jr., informing her that her husband had been declared missing in action.
(Photo: Courtesy of Dave Kibbey)
The children say their mother died in 1979 of a broken heart, wondering whether her husband was alive.

“She hung on for years and years, hoping. It’s really kind of an odd sensation. When they come to the door, you think the worst. When they say ‘missing in action,’ it kind of leaves you in limbo for wondering," said Viera resident Rick Kibbey, the couple's oldest son. He was 12 when the crash happened, and he is now 63.

"We were all wondering, hoping, praying,” Rick Kibbey added.

Air Force officials promoted Richard Kibbey to major, then colonel as years passed. Though U.S. military recovery teams visited the rugged helicopter-crash area in North Vietnam's Quång Bình province many times over the decades, no trace of him was found. Then, in September 2015, an unexpected breakthrough occurred.

“They were looking at the old crash site, and this farmer came up with a box. In the box were Dad’s dog tags and some remains of Pat Wood, who was the pilot," Rick Kibbey said.

"And when they were saying, ‘Where did you find them here at the crash site?’ he said, ‘Oh no, I didn’t find them here — I found them up there," Rick Kibbey said.

The military had been searching in the wrong place.

Kibbey's Children to Receive his Dog Tags

MARY ANN KIBBEY IS BURIED AT FLORIDA MEMORIAL GARDENS IN ROCKLEDGE. THE CHILDREN HOPE TO EVENTUALLY REUNITE THEIR PARENTS BY INTERRING THEM SIDE-BY-SIDE AT ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY.

Monday morning, U.S. Rep. Bill Posey will present Richard Kibbey's dog tags to his relatives during a ceremony at Patrick Air Force Base. The Air Force Reserve's 920th Rescue Wing will host the event.

"We are proud to host this tribute to Col. Kibbey and his family. Not only did he give the ultimate sacrifice while flying a combat mission to save the life of another, but the Kibbey family has endured the trials and tribulations of his unknown fate for the last 50 years," said Col. Kurt Matthews, 920th Rescue Wing commander.

"Families like the Kibbeys represent American endurance and pride. Throughout our history, military families have served as the warriors of the home front, sacrificing much," Matthews said.

For Rick Kibbey, brothers Dave and John, and sister Terry, the discovery of the dog tags has rekindled hope that their father's remains will finally be unearthed and returned home.

Mary Ann Kibbey is buried at Florida Memorial Gardens in Rockledge. The children hope to eventually reunite their parents by interring them side-by-side at Arlington National Cemetery.

“I had absolutely no expectations of ever finding anything at this point. And so it was a big shock to me,” Rick Kibbey said of the dog-tag discovery. A retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, he now works as anti-terrorism program manager with the 45th Security Forces Squadron at Patrick AFB.

Dave Kibbey, 58, is commander of Sons of the American Legion Post 359 in Port St. John. He was 7 when his dad vanished.

“It’s just one more piece to the puzzle to a final end. It’s that one more step. I’ve known in my heart, but this is another page to the final chapter,” Dave Kibbey said.

Rick Kibbey hopes Monday’s ceremony helps his family come to grips with the situation.

The Vietnamese farmer led Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency personnel to the previously unsurveyed crash site, where they found a rotor blade and other helicopter parts. During a November 2016 follow-up visit, they found the remains of Donald Hall, the helicopter crew chief.

Growing Up With a Missing Father

JOHN KIBBEY WAS A 2-YEAR-OLD TODDLER WHEN HIS FATHER'S HELICOPTER CRASHED. HE SEEMS TO RECALL A MEMORY OF HIS DAD GIVING HIM A BATH IN THE SINK, BUT HE CAN'T TELL IF THAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED.
During a 1971 TODAY interview, Mary Ann Kibbey recalled a dream she had one week before her husband's ill-fated rescue mission:

"I dreamed he was in a coffin surrounded by me and my family. I kept saying that he wasn't dead, he wasn't dead! Finally he got up out of the coffin and walked away. I think it was a warning sign of what was to come — a sign that he isn't really dead," she told the newspaper.

Mary Ann Kibbey regularly mailed brown paper-wrapped care packages addressed to her husband, in hopes he might receive them in captivity. For example, for Christmas 1971, she mailed his favorite pipe and tobacco and Polaroid photos of the family posing in front of the Christmas tree.

Her care packages were returned to sender.

John Kibbey was a 2-year-old toddler when his father's helicopter crashed. He seems to recall a memory of his dad giving him a bath in the sink, but he can't tell if that actually happened.

The Orlando resident served in the Air Force from 1983-87 as a surface-to-air missile operator/maintainer. Now 52, he recalls seeing his mother glued to 1970s television news coverage of Vietnam War POWs returning to California.

“She watched that TV for over two hours, watching the men coming off the plane, just hoping," John Kibbey said, fighting back tears.

Their sister, Terry Brayton, 62, who grew up on the Space Coast, now lives in Westfield, Massachusetts.

During Rick Kibbey's junior year, he was one of three Satellite High wrestlers whose fathers were missing in Southeast Asia. Mary Ann Kibbey joined POW-MIA Families of Brevard County and became a letter-writing-campaign advocate, attending meetings in Washington, D.C., and lobbying for release of prisoners of war.

By 1973, there were 10 POW-MIA families living in Brevard County.

"It was kind of rough. But I think that in the end, that kind of made us all stronger," Dave Kibbey said.

"Definitely," Rick Kibbey agreed.

Mary Ann Kibbey maintained a large collection of National Geographic magazines and bought annual Collier's Encyclopedia updates, hoping that her missing husband could read them and catch up on world events after returning from captivity.

"It always kind of touched me that she was trying to keep him up to date," John Kibbey said.

Ceremony set for Monday at PAFB

U.S. Rep. Bill Posey will present the dog tags of fallen Vietnam War rescue hero Air Force Col. Richard A. Kibbey to his family during a military ceremony at 10 a.m. Monday at Patrick Air Force Base.

Hosted by the Air Force Reserve's 920th Rescue Wing, the event is closed to the public.

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To our Brothers & Sisters in this War we never forget our own and Welcome Home
Boats
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O Almighty Lord God, who neither slumberest nor sleepest; Protect and assist, we beseech thee, all those who at home or abroad, by land, by sea, or in the air, are serving this country, that they, being armed with thy defence, may be preserved evermore in all perils; and being filled with wisdom and girded with strength, may do their duty to thy honour and glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

"IN GOD WE TRUST"
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