WASHINGTON (FOX 5 DC) - Nine service members — all missing in action — were remembered at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Monday. Their remains have now been positively identified.
Fifty-three years after Lieutenant Commander James Mills lost his life in Vietnam, his sister Ann Mills-Griffiths walked to The Wall and touched his name.
"Just think if we hadn't have worked so hard for so long,” said Mills-Griffiths.
The cross put next to her brother's name when The Wall was first built has now been changed to a diamond — the symbol indicating his remains have now been found.
A day Mills-Griffiths thought would never come.
“A lot of people never gave up, including the Vietnamese, and what happened was a fisherman.... a Vietnamese fisherman snagged his net on wreckage underwater,” said Mills-Griffiths.
Inside, the remains of the pilot, Captain James Bauder, were found but not her brothers.
“So, sure enough, they went back in 2018 — same time of year — the only time you can go there because of the currents on the continental shelf and guess what they found? They found a rib bone and they were able to cut it and get a DNA sequence on it and match my family,” said Mills-Griffiths.
Lt. Commander Mills was on his second tour of duty when he went down in his Phantom jet in September 1966.
“Getting his identifiable remains, we just never thought it would happen,” said Mills-Griffiths.
As chairman of the National League of POW/MIA families, Mills-Griffiths has spent decades fighting for the soldiers and sailors who never came home.
At The Wall this Memorial Day she was able to share the moment with her son Steve and granddaughter Natasha.
“It was rewarding. I can't say it was totally emotional... it’s different kinds of feelings. The good feeling was when I got the news about the pilot being recovered and identified because then I knew he was dead. He died serving our country voluntarily in that time on that day in that place,” said Mills-Griffiths.
Lt. Commander James Mills was 26 years old.