A soldier who paid the ultimate sacrifice nearly 50 years ago will finally be laid to rest and honored by the state of Tennessee next week.
Staff Sgt. Lawrence Woods was the first Tennessean to be declared missing in action leading up to the Vietnam War. With his remains discovered last year and a day of mourning approaching, a family is finally feeling their closure.
"When our governor takes that one special day to honor my dad that made me so proud," said Woods' son, Steve Woods. "I know now my dad will get the honor and respect he deserves throughout the state."
Steve Woods was only 8 years old and Deborah Secriskey was only 3 when their father left to serve in the Vietnam War. The year was 1964 when Woods' plane was shot down by enemy fire over Cambodia. His body was not recovered.
"We always held onto hope that he'd come back," said Secriskey. "The years went by, and we just never heard anything."
One day last September, the proud children of a proud soldier said a miracle happened. The family was contacted by the Joint Prisoners of War Missing In Action Accounting Command, a group still doing searches for men and women MIA from past wars. Lawrence Woods' remains were found in a previously undiscovered part of the plane.
"It was like, it wasn't real," said Secriskey. "After all these years, how could they possibly have found something?"
Now, nearly 50 years after Lawrence Woods went missing, Gov. Bill Haslam has announced flags will be lowered to half-staff across the state Friday in remembrance of a man who loved his uniform and his country. It's the same day his children will lay their father to rest at Arlington National Cemetary.
"I would love one day, Mr. Governor, to meet you and shake your hand, buddy," said Steve Woods. "Thank you for what you have done."
Having waited so long to close this final chapter in his father's life, Steve Woods said he now just wants to see that closure come to families of other MIA soldiers, the 1,600 still missing from the Vietnam War, the 7,000 from the Korean War, the 100 from the Cold War, and the 73,000 from World War II.
"Never, never give up," said Steve Woods. "Put it in the Lord's hands and one day, the Lord will answer your prayers."
Copyright 2014 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.