Sunday, October 24, 2010

‘Uncle’ Bud Is Coming Home

Few things are savored by Military families as much as when a loved one off to war finally gets to come home. As in all of our wars, too many don’t come home at all and others are absent from their families and loved ones too long. Far too long for some.

That is the sad saga of SSgt Claude ‘Bud’ Ray who is scheduled to arrive back home and be reunited with his mother, October 27, 2010, 67 years to the day that the B-24 Liberator he and 11 other American crewmembers disappeared over Japanese occupied New Guinea during severe weather on October 27, 1943.

Soldier’s remains found after MIA 67 years

SSgt Ray had flown his required missions and was due to return stateside, having written in his last letter that he was eager to come home to his native Kansas in hopes of enjoying a ‘White Christmas.” He volunteered to fly one more mission in the ill-fated B-24 Liberator as a tail-gunner and never returned.

SSgt Ray, ‘Uncle Bud’ to his now 74 year-old niece Karen Gideon now a resident of Fullerton, California was but 25 years old when his B-24 disappeared. Ms. Gideon was but 6 years old when he enlisted in the Army Air Corps, but claims vivid memories of ‘Uncle Bud.’

Ms. Gideon and her brother Burt Risser are the last known direct relatives of SSgt Ray and will be on hand to receive his remains Monday, October 25.

Fullerton woman buries her uncle – 67 years later

After 67 years missing in action, SSgt Claude Ray will be laid to his final rest near his mother in the Riverside National Cemetery in Southern California.

SSgt Ray sacrificed his life all those years ago when he stood up to fill-in for another who became ill. Many of our Troops then and now have made similar selfless sacrifices and like SSgt Ray, some did not come back.

Names like Casey Sheehan come to mind who sacrificed his life on a voluntary mission to rescue fellow soldiers in Iraq.

Lesser known names also come to mind, known but to a few today. Sgt. Scott Stanton, Sfc. Bob Pilk to mention just two.

Like SSgt. Ray, they lost their lives off in another country fighting for freedom for the South Vietnamese. Unlike Ray, they were brought home immediately for their families to bury and say good bye to.

I can only imagine the pain felt by SSgt. Rays family as they grew older never knowing what came of their brother, son and uncle. Due to some vague reports he was seen in a Japanese POW Camp, hope was held out for a while that he would come home again, alive.

Sadly that wasn’t to happen. But, he is being brought home now and will be buried with full Military Honors.

In May 2011, the family will attend services in Arlington National Cemetery where the Military is constructing a Memorial to the crew where the remains that were not able to be identified will be buried in a shared casket.

SSgt Ray exemplifies the words I once wrote, America’s Veterans, A Better Breed.

Welcome home, older brother. Rest in peace, your job well done.

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