Air Force Lieutenant killed in Vietnam laid to rest in Arlington more than 45 years later

ARLINGTON, Va. - More than 45 years after he was killed in a crash in Vietnam, an Air Force Lieutenant was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.

As an Air Force commander, Lieutenant Marvin Arthington left in 1970 to serve in Vietnam.

He left his wife, Suzanne, and newborn baby, Andrea, with his parents.

"He was a perfectionist, his uniform had to be a certain way," she says. "On the other side of it, he was silly, he was romantic, the first time I ever laid eyes on him he was mine."

His brother, serving in the Army, had been there for the past ten months.

"We knew he was supposed to be coming home in December so I extended for another six months and got a transfer to a different company so I could be near him. Some of the times in Vietnam I got to fly with him, and it was almost like old times."

Sergeant Major Bill Arthington came home from Vietnam on November 24, 1970.

Three days later, his brother's plan went down.

"I went and answered the door and here’s two gentlemen dressed Air Force, I didn’t think anything about it, come on in," he says.

Lieutenant Arthington's plane crashed into a mountain, killing him and three other servicemen.

Andrea would never get to meet her father.

The family says remains were found near the crash site, but there was not DNA testing at the time to separate and identify them.

They put the remains after the crash into one joint gravesite at Arlington National Cemetery.

"I was 24 and I don’t remember one thing about it I remember the 21 gun salute and that was all," says Suzanne.

In 2000, the Air Force recovered remains near Lieutenant Arthington's crash site and gathered DNA samples from Bill and his mother.

They can still remember those feelings of help.

"Finally in 2002 they said I’m sorry, but what we got was not a match to your brother," says Bill. "So I said, OK, that’s kind of the end of that story."

"I thought we’re not ever going to be able to bring him home, I just thought, that was kind of a final blow for me because I was so excited, and then so low," says Suzanne. "I just wanted to stand up and say my husband was a great pilot and this was a terrible accident, you know, because that’s how it felt.

More than 45 years later, Suzanne finally got that opportunity.

The Air Force contacted Andrea just before Memorial Day saying they tested remains turned over from a refugee back in the 80's.

It was a 100 percent match.

"It was very emotional, overwhelming," says Andrea. "I told my boss I have to leave, I have to go to my Mom’s."

In September, on an American Airlines flight, with his family on board, Lieutenant Arthington arrived at Reagan National Airport.

The next day, they buried him at Arlington National Cemetery.

Ironically, he was buried just feet from where they placed his joint gravesite.

"The minute I told Marvin you’re home at the cemetery this morning, there was a visible weight lifted from my shoulders, I have peace," says Suzanne.

His classmate from Texas A&M, where he met Suzanne, said he had not seen Lieutenant Arthington since college.

"This is like a burden has been lifted off the top of my heart, for Andrea, I know that sounds corny but it’s true," says Michael Beggs. "Me and the rest of my classmates, I think we can all die happy now knowing old Goose is home at last."

To this day, there are just over 1,600 soldiers missing in action/not recovered from the Vietnam War, according to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency website.

Lieutenant Arthington's family says they want to be a symbol of hope.

"They still got the military motto no man left behind," says Bill.

"I heard it all my life and I never really believed it," says Suzanne. "But now, we’re true believers."