Vietnam vet returns after 45 years - WSMV Channel 4

Vietnam vet returns after 45 years

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TRACY CITY, TN (WSMV) -

A Vietnam veteran from Middle Tennessee, missing in action for 45 years, is coming home.

The remains of Grundy County's Marvin Phillips were discovered by a Vietnam villager and then DNA tested by the Department of Defense. This led to a meeting last week between government officials and surviving members of Phillips' family.

"We were shocked, it brought it all back, it was an emotional meeting," said Phillips' niece Wendy Bess.

On Sept. 26, 1966, door-gunner Specialist Four Marvin Phillips along with three other men were shot down on a combat assault mission.

One man survived, one died and two were missing in nine feet of water off the Vietnam coast.

Marvin Phillips was missing in action and presumed dead but that left the door to hope and rumors.

"Some say they saw him in Chattanooga, some say Atlanta, it was hard on the family," said Willene Campbell, a fellow graduate of the Grundy County High School class of 1964.

Proof of that deep pain emerged recently with discovery of a letter written by Marvin Phillips' mother ten days after he disappeared. Days after the military came and told her he was presumed dead.

In the letter, Phillips' mom pleads with her son to write soon:

"Hi son,

I am sitting here praying you have made it back to camp. The government came and told us you were missing. Said your plane had been shot down in the sea. Yes, I am worried about you. But as I write this letter I am now writing on the Bible and I don't believe you are hurt. Dad and I were hurt awful bad son for we both know how good you were before you left here and I know you are still as good."

The letter returned, Marvin Phillips did not. But then the impossible, nearly half a century later a villager discovers Phillips' bones on a sandy beach.

"We are glad he is coming home, but we are all disappointed granny didn't live to see this day," said Bess.

Marvin Phillips will be buried on Sept. 26, the 45th anniversary of his death and disappearance. He will be buried in Grundy County as a war hero; 14 medals will drape his casket.

"I've cried off and on all day," said Campbell. "What he did for us and now he finally gets to come home."

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