By Mike Lear
Nearly 64 years after he died in a military plane crash on the side of an Alaskan mountain, Airman 3rd Class Wayne Dean Jackson of Downing has been laid to rest. The wreckage of the C-124 Globemaster was lost shortly after the November 22, 1952 crash and was rediscovered in 2012. Since then missions to the site have recovered wreckage and remains. In March the military identified some remains as being Jackson’s.
Vicki Kelso Dodson claimed Jackson as a brother. She remembered his mother, who died 17 years ago, talking about him hating the cold and wanting to bring him home from the snow and ice.
“He’s out of the ice. He’s home. He’s off that mountain,” said Dodson after his funeral Saturday. “His mother is looking down. I know she is. His mom and dad, and he’s home.”
Jackson’s remains were flown to Des Moines and driven to Downing Thursday ahead of a visitation Friday and a funeral with full military honors on Saturday. Dodson said Iowans and Missourians gave him a great welcome home as he was driven to Downing with an escort by the Patriot Guard.
“Complete towns were out waving flags with their hands over their hearts and it was just amazing,” said Dodson. “Small towns do this stuff I think and it was really overwhelming.”
Tonja Anderson-Dell’s grandfather died on the same flight, and she’s worked for more than 15 years to see the recovery of the 52 men that were aboard it.
“Our country preaches we never leave our fallen behind, and it’s been true … that they haven’t left their fallen behind,” said Anderson-Dell. “They’re bringing them home one at a time and they’re giving them that same service [they would have given them] 64 years ago.”
Anderson-Dell says despite the decades that have passed, seeing the remains of these men returned home and laid to rest is important to their families.
“[Some] may think it has been dealt with, but I can tell you that the siblings, the wives, the children – it hasn’t been dealt with. It’s what you call closure,” said Anderson-Dell.
Of the 52 men that died in that crash, remains from 33 have been identified. Dell’s grandfather, Airman Isaac William Anderson, Sr, is one of those for whom no identification has been made.
Earlier this year a funeral was held for Army Technical Sergeant Leonard George Unger of Gerald, another Missourian who died in that crash. A third man with ties to Missouri is Private Robert Dale Card, who has a brother and other family living near Springfield. No remains have been identified as belonging to him.
Dodson hopes Anderson-Dell, the family of Card, and all others who are still waiting on their loved ones’ remains to be found will have good news soon.
“I want to know when their family members come home. We won’t give up on that. I’m still praying for them,” said Dodson.
A team of specialists returned to the crash site in June and already one set of remains recovered then has been identified. The military intends to continue recovery operations with a goal of finding remains from all 52 men.