Remarks by Colonel Tom Yarborough at the Funeral of
1LT James Larry Hull

November 13, 2006
Arlington National Cemetary

COMING HOME

Thomas Wolfe, the legendary American novelist and author, never knew First Lieutenant James "Larry" Hull, a young Air Force pilot who was killed in action in Laos on February 19th, 1971. Yet the titles of two of Wolfe's novels capture the essence of Larry's 35-year journey from Laos back to the United States and into the sixth year of the new millennium. Wolfe's compelling words convinced an entire generation that "You Can't Go Home Again," but Larry Hull's wife, Tyra, his daughter, Laura, and the United States Air Force never bought into that notion. Instead, they were much more attuned to Wolfe's other novel, "Look Homeward Angel." Recently a team from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command excavated a desolate crash site on a Laotian mountain; after all these years they found the remains of Lieutenant Larry Hull. Patiently, and with complete confidence in his government, Larry had looked homeward for 35 years and bided his time. Now, indeed, an angel has come home.

Larry's saga is similar to yet in some ways different from those of the other 58,000 names carved into the shiny, black granite wall of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Like so many of his comrades, he was young and passionate about serving his country. An "Air Force Brat," Larry was the son of Chief Master Sergeant and Mrs. Robert J. Hull. Following his graduation from Texas Tech in 1968, he entered Officer Training School and received his commission as a second lieutenant in February 1969. From there it was on to Reese Air Force Base for pilot training---and the fulfillment of a life-long dream. For his first operational assignment he volunteered for duty in Vietnam as a forward air controller flying the O-2 "Oscar Deuce." At Da Nang Air Base, Larry settled in and became a Covey FAC with the dangerous job of flying strike control and reconnaissance missions over the infamous Ho Chi Minh Trail. After six months over the Trail, Larry again volunteered, this time to fly the super secret "Prairie Fire" mission in direct support of Special Forces-led reconnaissance teams working far behind the lines in Laos and the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Vietnam. In spite of the 50 percent loss rate sustained among Da Nang Prairie Fire pilots, Larry thrived on this vital but dangerous mission. It was while flying low and slow in support of Reconnaissance Team Habu that Larry's aircraft was shot down by North Vietnamese anti-aircraft guns. Due to the heavy ground fire, Covey 275's body could not be recovered from the crash site.

During those intervening years, life went on for both Tyra and Laura, but thoughts of Larry were never far away. Mother and daughter constantly wondered about the circumstances of Larry's death, about his final resting place in the far off jungles of Laos, about the possibility of his ever being located and returned to them. They weren't even aware that Larry had been involved with the most clandestine military unit of the Vietnam War, the Studies and Observation Group, or SOG. Finally, in 1993, a chance occurrence removed much of the shadowy veil. A friend of Larry's and fellow Prairie Fire pilot wrote a book about his experiences as a Covey FAC flying for SOG. In the book he recounted Larry Hull's final mission and detailed the circumstances of his friend's death. On reading the account, Tyra and Laura were thunderstruck. After 22 years they could finally piece together all the elements of the story. Yet true closure proved to be an elusive, slippery, emotional road; without Larry's physical remains, a huge unresolved void dominated their thoughts.

Quietly, and mostly behind the scenes, members of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command continued to negotiate with the Laotian government for permission to excavate a crash site believed to be Larry's. Then, in May 2006, after 13 frustrating years, teams finally worked the site; they found Larry Hull.

From the Talmud: This is the way of the world: When a child is born, all rejoice: When someone dies, all weep. We should do the opposite. For no one can tell what trials and travails await a newborn child: But when an adult mortal dies in peace, we should rejoice, for he has completed a long journey, and there is no greater boon than to leave this world with the imperishable crown of a good name.

James "Larry" Hull, recipient of the Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart, and nine Air Medals, has indeed completed a long journey; he has earned that imperishable crown of a good name by giving his life for his country. And for this band of brothers, all the Vietnam Vets assembled in this chapel today, Larry has come home to remind each of us that our service in Vietnam was not solely about war, but it was also an immersion in those core values that define a human being. That we've had the privilege of being associated with so noble an ideal, the honor to serve beside a shining beacon like Larry, arouses a sense of pride and yet humility that will be with us always. Larry "Woodstock" Hull, along with 58,000 other comrades, is indeed the wind beneath our wings.

Today, a true hero has come home to take his rightful place among thousands of other heroes resting in America's most hallowed ground, Arlington National Cemetery. And hopefully, hopefully, another American family will at last find closure.

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1 Lt. James Larry Hull
KIA 19 Feb 1971

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