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War hero brought home, laid to rest after 40 years missing in action

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  • By Senior Airman Kenny Holston
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
Staff Sgt. Adam Blankenship grew up listening to stories of his Uncle Quincy Adam, but had never gotten to know him. Mr. Adam was a Vietnam vet who was missing in action for 40 years. 

"My mom used to tell stories about him all the time," said Sergeant Blankenship. "He was a good guy who liked to have fun and always wanted to fly airplanes. It was why he joined the Air Force." 

On July 27, as a 21-gun salute rang throughout Chapel Hill Memorial Cemetery, Sergeant Blankenship got to see his uncle for the first time as he joined active-duty members, retirees and family who gathered at Quincy Adam's final resting place to pay their respects.

"It's been a long road for our family waiting for this type of closure," said Sergeant Blankenship, a member of the 436th Security Forces Squadron. "I received the news while deployed to Afghanistan, and it really redefined the pride that I have in serving our country." 

Sergeant Blankenship was allowed to temporarily return from deployment to attend his uncle's funeral. 

"My first sergeant and mortuary affairs did a lot of work to be able to get me back, I'm really thankful for their help," said Sergeant Blankenship. "There was over 300 people at the funeral service and I was really grateful that I could be one of them."

In keeping with tradition, the Whiteman AFB Honor Guard gathered its entire fleet to ensure a proper and honorable military funeral was carried out for the late Mr. Adam and his family.

"Today is a good day," said Tech. Sgt. Dave Giberson, Whiteman AFB Honor Guard NCO in charge. "One of our own has been brought home; we've practiced long and hard for this day, so let's go out there and do what we do best."

As the funeral commenced and respects were paid, a Vietnam era C-130 Hercules flyover was performed by a aircrew from the 41st Airlift Squadron at Little Rock AFB, Ark.

After the 21-gun salute had been fired, Honor Guard leader Master Sgt. Gregory Giles presented Kenneth Adam, father of Quincy Adam, with a folded American flag on behalf of the United States.

"The feeling of handing over that folded flag was like nothing I've experienced in my 21 years of performing in the honor guard," said Sergeant Giles. "The fact that his son passed away before him while serving his country made my feelings that much more overwhelming. I was honored to perform such a service to say the least, and proud to have been a part of a very important funeral."

Mr. Adam served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War as a C-130 Hercules loadmaster. Growing up, he wanted nothing more than to fly, so joining the Air Force was only natural for him.

As the United States moved forward with efforts in Vietnam, Mr. Adam and the rest of his crew got the call letting them know they were needed on the war front. Without hesitation, he and the rest of the crew set off in their C-130 'Blind Bat 01.'

Mr. Adam and his crew carried out a regularly scheduled Night Flair drop mission over eastern Laos, adjacent to the northern most provinces of South Vietnam near the infamous Ho Chi Minh Trail. The trail was used by the Communists to transport weapons, supplies and troops from North Vietnam into South Vietnam, a crucial target for U.S. forces.
The primary role of the Blind Bat mission was to find, illuminate and direct air strikes against North Vietnamese truck convoys, according to Harold W. Lowe, former Blind Bat pilot. They also struck river traffic, river fords, bridges and POL dumps and occasionally supported ground operations and rescue missions.

'Blind Bat 01' made its last radio contact with the airborne mission command and control center at 8:30 p.m., May 22, 1968. By 9:15 p.m. the aircraft was still out of contact and another C-130, 'Blind Bat 02,' was dispatched to search for the missing aircraft.

While searching, 'Blind Bat 02' saw a large fire on the battlefield below, this was later deemed to be the wreckage of 'Blind bat 01.' The entire crew, including Airman Adam, were listed MIA. The 'Blind Bat 02' took heavy Anti-Aircraft fire and was unable to investigate the crash scene any closer.

After 40 years Mr. Adam's remains were discovered in Southeast Asia, and he was brought home to Kansas City to rest.

"It's such a relief to finally have this closure," said Kenneth Adam. "I've waited and prayed for this moment to come every day for the past 30 years, and now that's its finally here I can rejoice and rest easy knowing that my son is home." 

Additional reporting by Staff Sgt. Chad Padgett, 436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs.