Nebraska veteran finally laid to rest after 50 years

Final farewell decades in the making
Published: Jun. 5, 2023 at 6:58 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - At Lincoln Memorial Cemetery dozens of people came together to pay their respects to Larry Zich, a young man who died when a helicopter he was riding in went down in Vietnam.

The gathering and goodbyes was 51 years in the making. After finally being accounted for last year, friends, family and those who served alongside Zich gathered to say farewell and finally lay him to rest.

On April 3, 1972, Zich, a Chief Warrant Officer 3 who served as a Huey Helicopter Pilot in Vietnam, was a co-pilot on a helicopter with the 37th Signal Batallion that was sent out for a rescue support mission.

“We were we were supposed to pick up this crew from this radio stick repeater station, because the north Vietnamese were invading,” Bill Case, who served in the Army alongside Zich in Vietnam, said. “That was our mission to destroy a lot of radio equipment and get those guys out of there.”

But during the flight, the pilot of the helicopter got lost in bad weather and when the helicopter couldn’t be located, the crew including Zich and three others, were reported missing.

Zich, who was born in South Dakota but was raised in Lincoln, died at just 24 years old.

Case said he would have been on that flight but he had orders to go home that day.

“Most of us were in 19, 20, 18. Yeah, it was a bunch of kids and expensive machines and lots of explosives,” Case said.

Sixteen years later, a Vietnamese refugee turned over human remains of nine individuals that died in an aircraft crash to the defense intelligence agency.

Then on Oct. 25, 2022, Zich was identified among those remains by using dental and DNA analysis.

“We’ve come from different parts of the united states and spent over 50 years. Thank god there was some something found for the family for their closure,” Mike Smith, who served in the Army alongside Zich in Vietnam, said.

More than a half a century later Zich’s family was visibly emotional as he was laid to rest.