The remains of one of Oklahoma's Finest were finally returned home for burial on Tuesday, nearly 50 years after Major James Lafayette Whited was killed in the Vietnam War.
This day has been a long time coming for Major Whited's family. Forty six years ago, his plane went down in the Vietnam War, and for decades, his body was never found. Then just a few years ago, a recovery mission led to finding his remains. On Tuesday, an overdue hero's welcome home happened for Major James Whited.
"He had a passion for flying and a dedication to his country. That was one of his true loves, as a pilot, he was both rotary wing and fixed wing qualified," Major Whited's son, James Whited, said.
Originally from Detroit, Norman, Oklahoma was the place Major James Lafayette Whited called home.
It's where he joined the National Guard, serving as an Army pilot in Korea and Vietnam.
On November 19, 1966, on a reconnaissance mission over Laos, his plane went down. His son, James, was 20 years old.
"My father's crash was in a rainforest," said Whited, "they can only go there in the dry season. They can't go there in the rainy season, so there's a lot of logistics involved in this."
During a Joint Prisoners of War recovery in Laos between 2005 and 2009, dental records finally identified Major Whited's remains.
"We went out and visited the folks at JPAC and got a briefing on the process. [It's a] very, very interesting group that's responsible for recovery of remains for all services for all conflicts," Whited said.
Major Whited's body was returned to Norman, closing the book on decades of questions for his family.
"It was a very good welcome home," said Whited, "we're very happy."
Major Whited was 42 years old. His wife is still living in Norman and says she's thankful she finally got to welcome her husband home – she'll turn 90 on Sunday.
Major Whited will be buried with full military honors this Friday. Graveside services will be held at Sunset Memorial Park in Norman.