The Defense Department has positively identified the remains of a Colorado Marine who went missing 37 years ago, the Associated Press reports.
Pfc. James Jacques went missing and was presumed dead after a helicopter crash in Cambodia in 1975. He was killed during the rescue of the crew of the American cargo ship the S.S. Mayaguez, which was seized by the Khmer Rouge on May 12 of that year. He will be buried with full military honors at Fort Logan National Cemetery in Denver Tuesday, which would have been his 56th birthday.
Jacques’ dog tags were discovered in 1992, and his remains were turned in by a Cambodian during a US-Cambodian search team in 2007. Newly available DNA technology allowed researchers to identify the remains this year.
Jacques sister, Delouise Guerra, was relieved to finally learn the truth about her brother’s death and disappearance when she received a letter from the Marines on August 14.
“I started crying because I knew it was about my brother. We were crying, we jumped, we hollered,” she said.
The 71-year-old was 15 when Jacques was born, and said he was “very loving, very caring … He was just a really good person.” Guerra said she will hold on to his dog tags, because they were a part of him.
Jacques joined the Marines in October 1974, right after his 18th birthday. His family was hesitant about letting him join, but didn’t try to talk him out of it. Guerra said he wanted to “serve his country and his do best.” Sadly, he was killed just seven months after enlisting.
James Jacques was one of hundreds of Marines and airmen sent to Koh Tang Island, 60 miles off the coast of Cambodia, to rescue the crew of the Mayaguez. The helicopter carrying Jacques and 25 others received heavy fire from Cambodian fighters and crashed. Of the 26, half were rescued, but the other half — including Jacques — were declared missing. Twelve have now been confirmed dead.
All 39 members of the Mayaguez crew were safely released by Cambodia, but about 40 servicemen were killed. That operation was considered the last US military engagement in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War.