Forever Remembered: Soldiers and crew of Flying Tiger Flight 739 honored with a monument in Columbia Falls
The plane was carrying 93 US Army Soldiers and 11 crew members, including two Mainers from Farmington and Millinocket.
COLUMBIA FALLS, Maine (WABI) - Families from across the country gathered today in Columbia Falls to remember their loved ones who went missing 59 years ago on Flying Tiger Line Flight 739.
March 16th, 1962.
That’s the day Flying Tiger Line Flight 739 went missing over the Western Pacific Ocean.
The plane was carrying 93 U.S. Army Soldiers and 11 crew members, including two Mainers from Farmington and Millinocket.
The names of those lost have not yet been properly recognized.
“Those families have been saying for years almost 60 years, listen to our stories, give us some answers, give these people a place to be honored so that they can rest, and what an honor to be able to do that,” said Karen Worcester, Executive Director of Wreaths Across America.
Karen Worcester and her Husband Morrill, who founded Wreaths Across America, wanted to help in remembering those lost on the flight.
They donated the land where the brush is harvested to make their wreaths so that a monument could be erected with all 104 names etched in stone.
John Biernacki, whose dad Master Sergeant Henry Biernacki was on the flight, came from Dallas to remember and honor his father.
“We finally get to see a little bit of recognition for the heroes that were on that flight, going where they were ordered to go that day,” said John Biernacki.
Peter Thomas and his daughter Brooke came from Nevada after finding out about the monument just last week.
“To learn that it hasn’t been forgotten, and all of this has been in the works for over a year, it’s pretty amazing. I’m glad we were able to come out, that we heard about it. That was all by chance,” said Peter Thomas.
Peter’s dad and Brooke’s grandfather was the captain and pilot of flight 739.
“He inspired my father to become a pilot, my dad was a little kid and he got to fly with him a few times in the flight deck, and then my dad inspired me. Aviation I think just runs in the family,” said Brooke Magee.
Saturday’s ceremony and monument won’t be the only way these fallen heroes will be remembered.
“We will provide a dog tag with their loved one’s name, it’s placed among the branches of the balsam and every third year their tree is harvested and the wreaths will go all over the world to veterans graves. That’s like a living memorial and that makes them feel good too. They’re not going to be forgotten, it’s not just a one and done here, those stories are going to be told over and over,” said Worcester.
The next step for the families is to continue pushing for the names of their loved ones to be added to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C.
That has not happened due to the complexities surrounding the mission.
The unveiling of Saturday’s monument, however, is a monumental step towards healing.
“Every year, when we place wreaths on this monument, those names will be read out loud. Remember, Honor and Teach,” said Worcester.
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