Exactly 51 years to the day that Air Force Major Dean A. Klenda’s plane was shot down over North Vietnam, his remains will be laid to rest at St. John Nepomucene Catholic Church cemetery in Pilsen. The funeral with full military honors will be Sept. 17.
“I want to make a good day out of a bad day,” Dean’s sister, Deanna Klenda said. “I had thought it was impossible that his remains would ever be found.”
“I am so overjoyed,” she said. “I never thought I would be planning this. I couldn’t believe that they actually would find and identify remains as my brother. It was a God’s blessing.”
After the funeral Mass, complete with a flag-draped coffin and an honor guard presentation, a flyover in “missing man formation” will take place at the gravesite. Patriot Guard Riders will be there to ensure the privacy of the family and their guests.
Major Dean Klenda was a member of the 67th Tactical Fighter Squadron as the pilot of an F-105D Thunderchief that was attacking enemy targets in Son La Province on Sept. 17, 1965, when his aircraft was struck by enemy fire, causing him to eject. He failed to separate from his ejection seat before it impacted the ground.
As the crash happened in enemy territory, his remains could not be immediately recovered.
Deanna was 21 and in college when her brother was killed at age 25. The family spent decades working with U.S. and Vietnamese officials and private groups to try to find and identify Klenda’s remains.
Between 1993 and 1999, the U.S. and Vietnam conducted investigations of the crash site. They found where Klenda landed, but no remains were recovered.
On Nov. 10, 2011, another joint search team revisited the area and interviewed a Vietnamese man who claimed that in 1996, he found remains at the site where the ejection seat was believed to have impacted. He told the team that he discarded the remains in a field.
From Nov. 4 to 29, 2014, a joint team excavated the site where the Vietnamese man claimed to have discarded the remains. They recovered human remains, and scientists used circumstantial evidence and dental records to identify them as Klenda’s.