El Reno Soldier, MIA For 44 Years, Finally Laid To Rest

Saturday, September 15th 2012, 6:56 pm
By: News 9

An El Reno Vietnam veteran missing in action for 44 years is finally being laid to rest back home.

Family and friends paid their respects Saturday to one of Oklahoma's finest. It was 44 years after El Reno Air Force Lt. Col. Finley Blanton was declared missing in action during the Vietnam War.

Air Force Base Honor Guard and more than 200 Patriot Guard riders were right by his side Saturday.

"He and his unit were very instrumental in protecting a tremendous amount of our troops," Patriot Guard Riders, Assistant State Captain Jay Clark said.

The Oklahoma Air Force pilot was 46-years-old when he was killed. Blanton also served in the Korean War and World War II.

"He saved a lot of lives that's why a lot of these people are here today," Clark said.

Records now say Blanton was killed on March 3 1968, but back home, sweetheart Norma did not know.

"You've got a husband missing in action and you start crying," Norma Blanton said.

Crying and hoping her husband would be found, Norma never remarried.

"Every phone call," she remembered, "I had an overseas operator in the middle of the night say stand by for a call and I thought ‘Thank God it's Bill. He's coming back.'"

But that call from Bill never came.  

"It was crushing," she said.   

His daughter Karen Daughety was 21. She took her father's remains back to El Reno this week.

9/14/12 Related Story: Oklahoma Family Finally Gets Answers On Missing Father

"The anticipation is down and the reality is here and now there is some closure," Karen said. "I feel more at peace."

The Patriot Guard riders have been by the family's side for three days, as they finally get answers, heal and find closure.

"I don't know what I felt. I don't know what I'm feeling today, but I am so pleased at all these people here," Norma said.

Oklahomans gathered to honor and never forget their hometown hero, now back home where he belongs.