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Airman missing 28 years comes home

  • Published
  • By J.C. Corcoran
  • 66th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
For nearly 30 years, the family of deceased Staff Sgt. Donald Michaud has been waiting for his return home.

The wait ended July 18 when the sergeant's remains returned to New England. On hand at Boston's Logan International Airport were two members of the Patriot Honor Guard from Hanscom, who were accompanied by Logan Airport firefighters and a member of the Massachusetts State Police.

As the flag-draped casket containing Sergeant Michaud's remains was removed from the aircraft, salutes were rendered, recognizing the service of a fellow Airman who was finally home.

"It's an honor for us to welcome Sergeant Michaud home," said Master Sgt. Laura Noel, Patriot Honor Guard superintendent. "The Patriot Honor Guard has the opportunity to provide some long-awaited closure to the Michaud family as we provide full military funeral honors and present them with our nation's flag. When they hold that flag for the first and every time thereafter, I hope they will find comfort in knowing their loved one is finally home."

Sergeant Michaud was laid to rest July 20 in St. Joseph's cemetery with full military honors, following a mass of Christian burial at St. Joseph's Church in his hometown of Biddeford, Maine.

He was assigned to Det. 3 of the 322nd Airlift Division, Hellenikon Air Base, Greece, at the time of his death in 1978.

On Sept. 9, 1978, Sergeant Michaud, along with two other individuals, Airman 1st Class Jan Granroth and her brother Mark, went scuba diving in Vouliagmeni Lake near Vouliagmenis Point, Greece, according to information provided by Headquarters Air Force Mortuary Affairs.

When they failed to return, an unsuccessful search effort was launched. Two weeks later, a presumptive finding of death was declared.

In the fall of 2006, a local Greek diving association, the Pan-Hellenic Association of Frogmen, located wetsuits, diving equipment and human remains believed to be those of the missing individuals, according to a Feb. 28, 2007 "Stars and Stripes" article.

The recovered remains were held by the Greek government for four months prior to turning them over to the Air Force, as Greek pathologists worked to positively identify the remains.

Analysis by forensic anthropologists of the Office of Armed Forces Medical Examiner and DNA testing, completed by the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory, confirmed the identification of the three missing Americans.

Surviving family members were notified in June that positive identification of their missing loved ones had been made. For Patrick Michaud, Sergeant Michaud's father, the years of wondering what happened to his son were finally at an end.

Sergeant Michaud is survived by his father, as well as his son, Robert, and daughter, Katherine. Sergeant Michaud's wife and a step-daughter did not live to see him come home.

Through the years, Sergeant Michaud's family received periodic updates from the military on the search efforts to locate him. Though greatly appreciated, the reports were painful to hear as the mystery of the sergeant's disappearance went on from months to years, Mr. Michaud said.

"After nearly 30 years of wondering what happened, it feels great [to finally have him home,]" he said.

Sergeant Michaud enlisted in the Air Force in 1967; he had served for nearly 12 years at the time of his disappearance.

Of his membership in Air Force, the sergeant had been, "happy, very happy. He had planned to stay in until he could retire," Mr. Michaud said.