On Thursday, the 13th of March, 2014, the remaining family members of Vietnam War hero, Staff Sgt. Lawrence Woods, prepared for the remains of their father to be transported to Tennessee before arriving at its final resting place at Arlington Memorial in Virginia. For years, his children thought this day would never come to be. For fifty years, he had been missing in action.
In the tumultuous atmosphere preceding the Vietnam War, nobody had foreseen what was about to transpire as Staff Sgt. Lawrence Woods and a team were sent out to replenish stock for the other soldiers. Just days prior to the start of the Vietnam War, Woods and a crew of seven others were gunned down in Bu Prang while they were attempting to deliver supplies to the Special Forces camp of the U.S. After the tragic event, the bodies of his other team members were quickly recovered and their identifications were verified.
The crew on the flight that day were soldiers in the 5th Special Forces Group from Fort Campbell in Clarksville, TN. The men were identified as: First Lieutenant Edward J. Krukowiski, Captain Valmore W. Bourque, Staff Sergeant Theodore B. Phillips, First Lieutenant Robert G. Armstrong, Staff Sergeant Ernest J. Halvorson, Army Private First Class Charles P. Sparks and Airman First Class Eugene Richardson. The family of Staff Sgt. Lawrence Woods was not given the same news.
Unfortunately, the only one who was not found was Staff Sgt. Lawrence Woods. His remains lay hidden as the Vietnam War surged. For many years thereafter, the family did not know where his remains were and could only surmise whether he was alive or dead After extensive investigation with no success, the search seemed futile, and efforts, for the most part, were abandoned.
His whereabouts would have remained a mystery; however, in 1997-2010, the search began again. This time, Staff Sgt. Lawrence Woods remains were found and identified. They remained under forensic analysis until March 13,2014, when they were transported back to Clarksville, Tennessee. In the wake of this news, both tragic and heroic, Governor Bill Haslam declared a day of mourning in his honor.
On Friday, March 21, 2014, flags all across Tennessee will be lowered to half-staff in honor of Staff Sgt. Lawrence Woods and the sacrifice he made on behalf of his country, his state, and his family. He was the father of three children at the time of his demise: Lisa, Steven, and Deborah. He was 39 at the time when he had to leave His wife, Francis Woods and their children for deployment. While the family was finally granted the closure of having had Staff Sgt. Lawrence Woods remains identified, his arrival elicited emotions and memories from his surviving loved ones.
In addition to his sisters and brother, Staff Sgt. Lawrence Woods is survived by his daughter, Lisa, who recounted she had been only a thirteen-year-old girl at the time. She stated that she remembered him as being a good father to them and for his sense of humor. She also noted that he had a lifelong yen for helping others in need. When interviewed, she stated: “The memories are flooding back as we prepare for this time of closure.”
The Vietnam War claimed the lives of 58,000 troops following the death of Staff Sgt. Lawrence Woods and his comrades on October 24,1964. Though the time to honor him has come some fifty years after his death, his family can rest in the memory of his legacy. The state of Tennessee will observe him in honor as he takes his place among the heroes that bravely fought and gave the ultimate sacrifice.
By: J.A. Johnson