Military News

Monday, June 29, 2015

Welcoming Major Robert "Bob" Olson home after 46 years

by Senior Airman Xavier Navarro
319th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

6/26/2015 - FORT SNELLING NATIONAL CEMETERY, Minn.. -- Maj. Robert "Bob" Olson, a native of St. Paul, Minn., perished along with nine other Airmen when his aircraft was shot down on Feb. 5, 1969, in the skies over Vietnam.

Forty-six years later, on June 22, 2015, his wife and their five children finally received closure, as DNA testing led to Olson's remains being identified and returned for burial.

On a cloudy Monday afternoon military personnel, friends and family gathered around a gazebo here as a hearse escorted the remains of Major Olson for one final salute.

Mary Kay Olson, widower, stated that their family has gone through all kinds of emotional struggles ever since her husband went missing in action. "We've gone through funerals, missing in action and honoring him every year through this point."

Sent to perform the funeral ceremony was a team of 18 Airmen from the 319th Air Base Wing Honor Guard at Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D.

Staff Sgt. Alexandra Crawley, 319th Force Support Squadron base honor guard program manager, was the NCO-in-charge of the honor guard detail during the funeral and acknowledges the reason why their job is important.

"Words can't explain the pride and honor felt to be a part of the homecoming of Major Olson," said Crawley. "Forty six years later the Honor Guard team was able to be a part of history that deeply enriched who we are today as American Airmen and as a country. It was definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity."

Crawley expressed how her team's missions have impacted the deceased family member's lives.

"You could see the pride Major Olson's family felt. It was a privilege to be a part of it," said Crawley. "It was such an unforgettable moment being able to finally provide closure to the family and pay tribute to the ultimate sacrifice paid by Major Olson."

Olson was a graduate from West Point Military Academy in 1958 and served in the U.S. Air Force as a navigation instructor at the U.S. Air Force Academy.

In light of new technology unavailable in the past, a DNA testing was done for positive identification making it possible to finally bring Olson's remains back home.

Olson was deployed to the city of Pleiku in central Vietnam and for months, his children communicated with him through care packages, letters and audiotapes.

"Olson was a fantastic father and a great husband, I didn't have him long enough," said Mary Kay Olson.  "What we had of him was wonderful and fabulous memory."

After the ceremony Mary Kay Olson thanked everyone who came to the funeral, she spoke about offering her time as a social worker where she assisted others who loved ones were missing or killed in action.

"My job as a widow is to make sure his memory is honored and so therefor that's what I try to do," said Olson. "I work with 100 survivors in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and try to keep them with their benefits and what they need, that's how I pay back."

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