Mark Giles Danielson
Captain, United States Air Force
From a contemporary news report:
"On October 27, 1994, the Air Force announced that they had identified the remains of thirteen servicemen killed during the Vietnam War, including twelve who were on an AC-130A shot down over the A-Shau Valley on June 18, 1972. According to a news report from Travis Air Force Base, California, three of the twelve members of the crew (Major Gerald F. Ayers, Captain Mark Danielson and Senior Master Sergeant Jacob Mercer) had ben individually identified and the nine other crew members (Tech Sergeant Richard Cole,Captain Paul Gilbert, Major Robert Harrison, Sergeant Leon Hunt, Sergeant Donald Klinke, Sergeant Stanley Lehrke, Sergeant Larry Newman, Sergeant Richard Nyhof and Captain Robert Wilson) had been 'identified' as a group.
"On November 17, 1994, a group burial of the
co-mingled remains of the AC-130 crew was held at Arlington National Cemetery.
LOUISVILLE, Kentucky — Lisa Corboy was only 3 years old when her father, an Air Force navigator in the Vietnam War, was killed in action.
Most of what she knows of him are stories told to her by relatives and experiences recounted in his letters from Vietnam. While she has no recollection of when he died, Corboy said her mother watched her run into her room and rip up his picture after she was told he wasn't coming back.
Thirty-one years after his plane was shot down over the A Shau Valley in South Vietnam, Captain Mark Danielson's remains are being brought home to Colorado and laid to rest in Fort Logan National Cemetery.
Corboy, a Louisville resident and now 34, said she went through many of his letters when his remains were uncovered in Vietnam in 1993. In the letters, Corboy said, he refrained from any emotional descriptions.
"They're very mundane," she said. "He wrote about day-to-day stuff, like doing his dry-cleaning and winning service awards. But it gives you a glimpse into who he was."
Danielson, a Colorado native whose plane exploded on impact on June 18, 1972, was listed as missing in action until June 1973. U.S. government officials later examined the crash site and discovered his remains, along with those of one other squadron member.
A group burial service for the squadron was held at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia in 1994. Recently, Danielson's family decided to bring his remains home.
Lea Dickinson, Danielson's older sister, said they were close as they grew up in Rangely.
"He was a very decent, caring person," she said. "He was an extrovert, and he loved people. When he walked into a room, the whole room lit up."
Dickinson, who lives in Colorado Springs, said Danielson was active in sports and enjoyed playing bridge and golf. She said she also recalls him being heavily involved in ROTC.
"He loved flying and everything about it," she said.
Dickinson, 62, said her brother was very proud of his daughter Lisa.
"For all the nutty stuff that was a part of his life, he could be very tender," she said. "I remember him scooping up my son Paul and running his finger from the baby's forehead to the end of his nose, and his eyes just shut. He told me, 'This is the way you put babies to sleep.'"
One time, Dickinson said, he pretended to accidentally fall back into Lisa's playpen.
"He was always being silly to make her laugh," he said.
While Dickinson said she was concerned about her brother going into war, she said she grew up believing that the military was a sacred and honorable responsibility.
After his plane was shot down, the family held onto the hope that her brother was still alive, Dickinson said. She said a national security analyst had some information that his name and rank had been reported on enemy transmissions, indicating that he may have been a prisoner of war.
When government officials uncovered his bone chips and teeth at the crash site, Dickinson said, she was skeptical that the remains were really his. When she pushed for genetic testing, Army officials informed her that if DNA tests were performed on the bone chips, there wouldn't be anything left.
"That's when I went ballistic," she said. "If I hadn't had anything to bury after all these years, I just wouldn't have seen the point."
The Air Force will arrange a flyover at the burial service to be held at Fort Logan National Cemetery at 10 a.m. today.
"The ceremony will honor Mark, because he is
well worth honoring," said Dickinson. "And it will also honor the nation
and the men who are serving today."
Captain Mark Danielson has finally come home.
More than three decades ago, Danielson was killed during the final days of the Vietnam War. Rescuers never found him, and he was listed as missing in action for a year.
When the Air Force officially declared him and 11 other missing crewmen dead, Danielson's family was outraged.
For years, the family refused to believe he was dead, and military officials kept his remains in Washington, D.C.
Then, in late October, Danielson was finally laid to rest in Fort Logan National Cemetery in Denver. The ceremony drew friends, family and more than 100 veterans and service members.
"They all should come home," said Mike Higgs, a Vietnam veteran from Denver who attended the funeral. "They all need to be buried in American soil."
Danielson was a crew member aboard a C-130 gunship shot down during an armed reconnaissance mission in 1972. The plane, a four-engine transport modified to carry a wide array of machine guns and a cannon, was hit by a ground-fired missile.
The ensuing explosion ripped a wing and the tail off the plane, and a secondary blast blew three of the plane's crew members clear of the falling wreckage. The other 12, including Danielson, were missing.
The family held onto hope. His parents, who moved to Colorado Springs in 1978, wanted the government to search prisons in Vietnam and Russia for their son, one of the 1,900 U.S. troops who remained missing after Vietnam.
In 1993, the place where the C-130 hit the ground was excavated by the U.S. government as part of an effort to repatriate the remains of American troops. The search effort yielded a few teeth belonging to the downed flier, enough evidence to officially close the case but not enough to satisfy Danielson's mother, Ruth.
Her determination kept the small remains out of a mass grave in Arlington, Va., where the rest of the C-130's crew was buried. The Department of Defense stored Mark Danielson's remains, waiting for the day when taps would sound over his grave.
Ruth Danielson died in July 2002, not believing there was sufficient proof to bury her son. Her daughter, Lea, still does not believe the government's explanation of her brother's death.
"I just want the full story," she said. "I may not get it until I meet Mark in heaven."
Mark Danielson's daughter, Lisa Corboy, was a toddler when he died. The now 34-year-old woman doesn't remember her father, but she decided it was time for him to rest beside the 63,000 other veterans buried at Logan National Cemetery.
"It was long in coming," she said as her children played nearby after the funeral.
Standing at the fringe of the service was Charles Darby, an Air Force master sergeant, his shoes highly polished and his uniform old but well pressed. He waited until prayers, a 21-gun salute, a flyover and the playing of taps ended. When the crowd dispersed, he approached Corboy.
"I was a mechanic on that plane," he told her. "We did everything we could to make sure they made it back. Everything."
Crying, he was comforted in the arms of a woman he had never met.
Corboy cried, too, as Darby said the words he had waited 31 years to utter.