Traverse City Record-Eagle

June 26, 2013

MIA area soldier gets full burial

BY ANNE STANTON astanton@record-eagle.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — SUTTONS BAY — An area man who was missing from the Vietnam war has been accounted for and will be buried with full military honors along with two of his crew members.

Army Spc. 5 John L. Burgess, 21, was crew chief of a UH-1H Iroquois helicopter that crashed in Binh Phuoc Province near the Cambodian/South Vietnam border on June 30, 1970.

Burgess was accounted for using forensic and circumstantial evidence, the Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel recently announced.

Burgess’ helicopter was struck by enemy fire while on a command and control mission, causing it to crash. Also, killed were 1st Lt. Leslie F. Douglas Jr., of Verona, Miss.; lst Lt. Richard Dyer, of Central Falls, R.I.; and Sgt. 1st Class Juan Colon-Diaz, of Comerio, Puerto Rico.

The single survivor, Pfc. John Goosman, pulled the aircraft commander clear of the aircraft, but intense flames stopped him from freeing anyone else, according to the website, togetherweserved.com.

Goosman remained at the crash site until friendly troops arrived to secure the wreckage. The remains of what were believed to be four crew members were placed in four body bags, but it was later determined there were only three sets of remains. None could be attributed to Burgess. The three men were individually identified and buried with full military honors, said the DPMO press release.

The final, recovered remains of Dyer, Colon-Diaz, and Burgess will be grouped in a single casket, on July 2, and buried at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C., said Sgt. 1st Class Sheila Sledge of the DPMO.

“This is a very interesting case,” she said. “One of the guys actually survived and is slated to be at the funeral, and another guy’s former spouse will be at the funeral.”

Burgess’ sister plans to attend the funeral, but asked not to be named or contacted, said Sledge, who also declined to say where the sister lives.

A biography of Burgess was posted by his sister, Peggy, on the togetherweserved.com website, a networking site for military veterans.

She wrote that Burgess’ birth name was Larry Waukazoo, born to Viola Waukazoo. He and other siblings were adopted by the Burgess family in Kingsley. At the time of his adoption, he was renamed John Lawrence Burgess. He lived and attended Kingsley school, grades 1-12, a fact at-odds with the DPMO press release that said he was from Suttons Bay. The discrepancy could not be resolved by press time.

Burgess was an athlete who played basketball and worked as a summer camp counselor. He enlisted in the U.S. Army after high school, she wrote.

Two weeks before a scheduled leave, enemy fire hit the aircraft and the helicopter crashed and burned, she wrote.

“His family grieves for his death,” his sister wrote. “In the 1990s the Army requested (DNA) from one of his siblings. His mother, Louise, asked the Army to contact his sister Peggy. (DNA) was sent, but to this date, no word on if her (DNA) was matched with John. He will remain forever young in the minds of his friends and family. May he rest in peace. ... Posted by: His sister, Peggy”

A cousin, Art Dembinski wrote that Burgess was an Ottawa Indian, born in Peshawbestown in Leelanau County. He listed his ancestors’ illustrious military service.

For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for missing Americans, visit the DPMO website at www.dtic.mil/dpmo or call (703) 699-1420.