Vietnam veteran finally laid to rest

After 51 years, the remains of Air Force Capt. Robert Russell Barnett will be properly laid to rest. He was on his third tour in Vietnam when he was killed in action and his body was never found. His family had begun giving up hope, but their prayers have now been answered.

"No Man Left Behind" - now the family of Capt. Robert Russell Barnett knows those words are true.

"I'm glad that I'm still alive, you know, at 84. I always wished that it would happen because I think he was very deserving," says Bettye Barnett Draker, wife.

Capt. Barnett and his wife met while attending Baylor; he was a football player there. They soon got married and after graduation, he enlisted in the Air Force. His third tour of duty, during the Vietnam War, would be his last. Capt. Barnett died in 1966 after the plane he was flying was shot down in Laos. His wife clearly remembers the day she found out.

"The minute they walked in, I knew immediately what they had come to tell me. I took off kind of running. You don't even know what you're doing to tell you the truth. I started running back toward my office and one of the gentleman that worked in the electric shop came right out and caught me," says Draker.

For years, the family knew very little. Only that Capt Barnett was "killed in action/body not recovered. It was hard on his daughters, who were 9 and 11 at the time. They held on to the memories. 

"We would spend a lot of time talking about the danger involved and how important it was for people like himself to go and fight the war. To be able to fight for our freedom, it was very important to him. He was a fantastic patriot," says D'Lynne Mims, daughter.

"I always thought he would come to my classroom door and that they were wrong and he would just show up. I know my sister would have the same dream or hope. Through the years, those dreams go away," says Debra Coffey, daughter.

After 51 years their prayers were answered.
In December, the family was told a positive identification was made by a tooth found at the crash site.

"They pledged to us they were going to bring our father home one day and they're bringing him home," says Coffey. 

A dignified arrival will take place Thursday at Austin Bergstrom International Airport. Capt. Barnett will then be laid to rest Friday at the Texas State Cemetery, right next to the Vietnam War Memorial. The family has many momentos to place inside his casket.

"I have a card where I told him how much I missed him and that I would see him again some day. How proud we were of him and his sacrifice to this country. That's exactly how he would have wanted to have died, to give his life to this country. He was a true patriot, he is a hero," says Coffey.

Their biggest wish is to bring hope to other families.

"He had a great life but it was not a complete full life. Now we're able to share his story with so many people through people like yourself. To me, that's the best thing of all," says Mims.

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