LEBANON, Ore. - After wondering for decades whether he was alive or dead, the family of a man shot down over Vietnam in 1965 has received confirmation that he perished in the war.
Chief Master Sgt. Arden Hassenger was declared dead in 1978. But over the years, there had been conflicting witness reports that he was alive in a POW camp, which had given his family hope. But within the last year, a Laotian man took some partial remains to the U.S. Embassy in Thailand, including a dog tag. They were positively identified as Hassenger's.
After all these years, they'll be brought back to Oregon next week. Hassenger's widow, Sherrie, is happy he's coming home but also heartbroken that he's really gone.
She talked about the love she shared with her husband, even sharing the words of a poem she wrote in 1990.
When I was only seventeen, I met the man of my dreams.
He had blonde hair, and eyes of blue. He said softly, 'I love you.'
For months on end, we wrote each day. In my thoughts he would take me away.
Then one day, he said to me, 'Come and go to Kansas with me.'
'Of course,' I said. I would go. He made such a handsome beau.
His uniform of blue, two stripes on his arm, a ring on my finger, we entered love's charm.
A small wedding, some quick goodbyes, we set off for Kansas with stars in our eyes.
On a Greyhound bus, we spent our first week, hand in hand, and cheek to cheek.
Our first apartment, a kitchen, bedroom, and share the bath, so many days of sweet love I wish I had back.
Then came our first baby, a little girl, with big blue eyes and golden curls.
This little girl became daddy's joy, then came a big baby boy.
Things got busy, two jobs he would do. But he could still fill the husband's shoes.
Sometimes tired and sometimes beat, he could always make sweet love to me.
Then one day I told him, 'Honey. There's going to be another bunny.'
Now things got better, his dreams came true, he was going to fly on B-52s.
Everything was so wonderful, green flight suits and jump boots, wings on his chest, promotions, and money, oh what great years.
What was to last forever had ended in tears, sent away to a place unknown, to help his country, frightened and alone.
A telegram came one Christmas Eve, 'missing in action' was the words we grieve.
Now twenty-five years later, I still sit and wait, hoping my sweetheart will come through my front gate.
I'll believe he is alive, 'til' there's proof he is dead. I'll keep the love he gave me on that February night that we wed.
The poem was written when Sherrie thought her husband might still be alive. She's now resigned to how things have turned out.
"I wanted him to come home alive," she said. "But I've had to accept that he's not."
Arden Hassenger will be laid to rest at the Odd Fellows Cemetery next week. He will receive full military honors.