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Columbus Women Bury Vietnam Vet 45 Years after Father's Death

COLUMBUS -- Decades after their father died during a secret mission in the Vietnam War, two Columbus women finally have some closure. 

"We've been on a roller coaster for 45 years," said Mitch Guess, one of the veteran's daughters.

The Guess and her three sisters said goodbye to their father, Col. Jay McGouldrick, in July 1967. They were 4, 11, 12, and 13 years old.

Because McGouldrick was on a confidential mission when his bomber crashed, his body could not be immediately recovered. He was listed as "missing in action" for nearly a half a century.

To keep his memory alive, loved ones and strangers alike wore silver bracelets emblazoned with the fallen airman's name.

McGouldrick's MIA status changed in September, when his remains were recovered in Laos and identified.

On Friday, the daughters got to say their final goodbyes at the Air Force Memorial in Washington, D.C. The service marked the first "celebration of life" at that location. 

McGouldrick's final resting place was a half of a mile away, in Arlington National Cemetery, Vir.

"So many heroes are there and our father finally will be too," said Marri Petrucci, another of McGouldrick's daughters.

Grandchildren, who had only ever known McGoudrick as a legend, bore his casket.

"One of my sons said that he's more alive now, at home, in a casket than he ever was --ever in their whole life," Petrucci said. 

"They know the story, and now they're going to get to see what a hero's welcome is," she said.

The silver bracelets were returned to the sisters and buried with McGouldrick. He was laid to rest near his wife, Jackie, who died of cancer in 1980 at age 47.

While the women only have fading memories of their father, they now have one final crystal clear moment with him -- the gift of an answer. 

"I would say absolutely we have gotten our answers," Guess said. "We got to bury our father with honors in Arlington Cemetery."

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