It has been 43 years since Fort Wayne native Capt. Herbert C. Crosby was lost over the jungles of Vietnam and six years since his remains were laid to rest in Arlington Cemetery Next week his mother will be presented with a Purple Heart for his bravery.
Crosby, 22, was within a few weeks of coming home when the Army helicopter gunship he was piloting crashed in a storm over Quang Nam Province in January 1970.
He and three crew members were listed as missing in action after their "Huey" disappeared, and for years family members heard nothing. Then in 1989, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam gave U.S. officials 25 boxes containing human remains, and a 1994 search of the crash site recovered more remains and artifacts. But it wasn't until December 2006 – using DNA provided by Crosby's two sisters - that his remains were officially identified and the family could begin to plan his funeral.
One of Crosby's sisters, Mary Lou Wade of Titusville, Fla., said the family chose May for the funeral because Crosby was born on the traditional Memorial Day (May 30) in 1947. "Our family has always been patriotic, so we'd like to honor (Herb) as close to Memorial Day as possible," Wade said in 2007.
Tuesday afternoon Crosby's cousin, Ab Crosby of Fort Wayne, said it was an honor to get the Purple Heart.
“But we'd rather have Herb,” Crosby, 64, said.
Had his cousin lived he would be 65, one year older than Ab Crosby, who said he had the opportunity to speak with some of the men who flew on the same mission as his cousin after the funeral at Arlington Cemetery several years ago. Three other choppers on the mission had made it out safely.
Crosby said his Uncle Herb Crosby Sr. never got over his son's death and died in 1991 before his son's remains had been identified. At one time he had gotten a call from a man in Vietnam who said they had his son's body and if he would send them a certain amount of money they would ship it home. He tried to come up with the money but also contacted the POW, MIA organization, which told him it was a scam being run by the Communist government, so he never sent the money.
Crosby said when his cousin's sister Mary Lou Wade found out the co-pilot of the helicopter had received a Purple Heart she was able to get one for her brother as well. She had tried before but had not been successful.
“They had told her he wasn't eligible for one because he hadn't died in combat,” Crosby said.
On March 28, in a private ceremony at his mother's home in Florida Crosby's Purple Heart will be presented to his mother and his sister Mary Lou.
“When they told my Aunt Jane about the Purple Heart she said 'It's about time,'" Crosby said.