Vietnam War pilot's return to home after 54 years

A missing Vietnam veteran was interred in his final resting place, having been missing for more than a half-century. His 90-year-old wife and their adult children welcomed him home at SFO Thursday and bid farewell Friday in a place of honor. 

The minister officiated, stating "We commit his body to the earth from which it was made."

Friday afternoon under a brilliant summer sky with full military honors, the long-missing remains of U.S. Air Force Col. Ernest Leo De Soto were interred at the Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno

Exactly 54 years ago, De Soto's fighter plane slammed into a mountain on a Vietnam War mission.  

During the solemn ceremony, a flyover of fighter planes flew the missing man formation in his honor. On Thursday at the San Francisco International Airport, the Balboa High School graduate's recently found and verified remains were finally repatriated to his hometown of San Francisco

These two days finally bring closure to his family who wondered for more than half a century what happened to him. 

Was he killed? Was he captured? Was he imprisoned? His widow Joyce touched the flag on his coffin. 


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"The first thing that came out of my mouth was, 'Where have you been? Did you get lost?' And then, I guess, then I said it like he's been sitting in this damn dirt over there 54 years, and it's like why? Why 54 years? Why couldn't they have found him?'" said Joyce De Soto.

His daughter and youngest son were just two at the time. 

"I'm just happy he's back home. But I'm sad because I wasn't able to have a father you know, and my mom. She's been very great; she's a father, mother, everything. This woman right here is amazing," said daughter Denise De Soto. 

"After a while, you get on with your life, never thinking you're gonna get any answers. But, we're very happy we have answers now," said son Craig De Soto.

Her older son Brad was 11 when the dreaded knock on the door came. 

"When I heard the news, I remember standing by the front door. I just collapsed and I cried. I know what it meant because I was the oldest. It was horrible. It was absolutely horrible," said Brad De Soto.

De Soto, a young man full of dreams, is now forever young but missing no more. We thank you for your brave service and ultimate sacrifice.