Coming Home - Maj. John L. Carroll

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Another hero comes home.

From AJC

The day his family thought would never come is here.

The remains of Air Force Maj. John L. Carroll, a Marist High School graduate, have been retrieved from a grave in Laos, and he is coming home to be buried with full military honors next week at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.

John Carroll's mother, now 87 and living in Marietta, will be there with her other two sons. The pilot's daughter and son will be there to see their father buried beside their mother, who died of cancer in 1995. The whole family will be together again, something that has not happened for a long time, the family matriarch said Tuesday.
"You sort of live the tragedy all over again," Mary Hancock said of the news her son's grave had been found by a joint U.S./Lao People's Democratic Republic team, led by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC). "It will bring us some closure. We've known he was dead but we didn't know where the grave site was. Now we know."

It was 35 years ago today, on Nov. 7, 1972, and in the middle of the Vietnam War that Carroll's small observation plane went down while flying a mission over Xiangkhoang Province. The Air Force pilot from Decatur was forced to land.
Carroll, 32, radioed search-and-rescue helicopters that he intended to stay in the aircraft, even though he was seriously wounded. Helicopters trying to rescue him were twice turned away by intense enemy fire and could not get to him.

The Air Force knew he was dead but didn't know the location of Carroll's body. Until earlier this year.
Following on leads in their search for another pilot, witnesses took the team locals to the place where a pilot had been buried.

"We had no hope," Hancock said. "They got a lead on this grave site and it was my son's."
The news was "totally out of the blue," said Julie Zouzounis, who had turned 7 just days before her father's best friend told her and her brother that their dad's plane had crashed.
"At first, it was such a shock," Zouzounis, who lives in California, said of the news her father's remains had been recovered. "We didn't expect there to be any. They had bombed the site. We never dreamed there was anything to be found."
The team also recovered some of Carroll's belongings — a calendar and a credit card.
"When we first heard about it, my brother and I ... didn't know how to respond," Zouzounis said in an interview Tuesday. "As it has unfolded, we both came to the place where it is such a celebration. I have a strong faith there is a reason for everything and the timing is right."

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