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Yakima airman laid to rest more than 50 years after dying in Vietnam

Paul Charvet took one last flight the day before he was scheduled to return home in 1967 and was never seen again. #k5evening

MABTON, Wash. — When his country beckoned, Paul Charvet answered the call.

"He volunteered," said his sister Lorraine Charvet.

On March 21, 1967, the 26-year-old Navy pilot from Grandview, Washington, was wrapping up his third and final tour of the Vietnam War.

"His commander said, 'No, you're not going.' And Paul made up the schedule. And he said, 'That is an old wives' tale, and you know I love to fly, and I want to do it. It's my last day.' And it was his last day," said Dona Re' Shute, Paul Charvet's youngest sister. 

While flying along with two other planes on a weather reconnaissance mission, Charvet banked into a cloud.

"He wasn't seen again after that," said Rear Admiral Terry Eddinger.

His disappearance was a mystery until the next morning.

"Hanoi Radio actually announced that they'd shot down a plane close to Hon Me Island," Eddinger said, "and his was the only plane that disappeared that day, so they knew that they must've been talking about him."

The Navy staged an extensive search, but didn't find anything, according to Eddinger.

Charvet was officially listed as "presumed dead." His family erected a memorial marker and gave up any hope of his body being recovered. But the Navy never stopped looking. 

"We didn't give up on our folks," Eddinger said.

After the war ended, investigators stayed on the case.

"For years and years, and decades," Eddinger said.

In 2020, officials directed the excavation of an apparent crash site on an island off the coast of Vietnam. There, they discovered human remains later identified through DNA testing.

"One hundred percent positive identification that they found him," said Eddinger.

Commander Paul Charvet was brought back to the country he had so proudly served, and laid to rest in the Mabton Cemetery just in time for Memorial Day.

"To me it's closure," said Lorraine Charvet.

Charvet was buried alongside his parents. A winged warrior had completed his mission. A beloved brother was finally home.

"We can keep remembering them, keep praying for them," said Lorraine Charvet of her posthumously reunited family, "But it's done now."

"They're together," said Shute.

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