An American hero returns home to Central Texas.
The homecoming, 51 years in the making, took place in Limestone County on Saturday, bringing an emotional end to one family’s long wait.
An honorary flyover welcomed more than 100 people to a cemetery in Thornton to pay their long-overdue respects to the family of Air Force Captain Richard Podell.
His son said he’s waited a lifetime for this day.
"Well, it’s like a door that’s finally closed," said Douglas Podell.
It took a lifetime for this funeral to finally happen.
"Elaine and family, my how you have waited, 51 years you have waited,” said Rev. Kurt Rutz of Thornton’s Grace Lutheran Church.
It started with Richard Podell’s entry into the Air Force during the Vietnam era.
That brought him to Waco where he got his training.
"After rising to the rank of Captain, Richard was deployed to Vietnam on June 9, 1967, on what was supposed to be a routine flight," said Rev. Tracy Sims of Central Baptist Church of Mart & Marlin.
But the flight quickly became anything but routine.
Podell’s plane crashed and no one could find the remains until 1992.
It took many more years before DNA could help identify Captain Podell and return him to his adopted home of Texas.
Those here call that kind of effort, important.
"It’s important mainly because of the fact that we don’t want to forget the individuals who ultimately gave us the opportunity to enjoy the freedoms we enjoy today,” said Technical Sergeant Derrick Spates of the United States Air Force.
Captain Podell’s final homecoming took place with all the usual military honors.
A color guard and military pallbearers brought Captain Podell to his final resting place, and his family received the flag that draped his coffin.
Douglas Podell says he never gave up hope, and neither should any other family.
"For those that are still waiting for this to happen, hang in there, have faith. Eventually, your loved ones will be brought home too," Douglas Podell said.
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