Son finds airman's remains in Laos, missing since 1969 - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Son finds airman's remains in Laos, missing since 1969

Paul Clever's father, TSGT Louis J. Clever, hugs his son during a family photo with his wife and daughter. (Source: Paul Clever, Facebook) Paul Clever's father, TSGT Louis J. Clever, hugs his son during a family photo with his wife and daughter. (Source: Paul Clever, Facebook)
(Source: KFVS) (Source: KFVS)
BENTON, MO (KFVS) - The son of a U.S. airman killed in action 46 years ago, could finally lay his father to rest Thursday.

Paul Clever on a journey.

With a Patriot Guard escort, he's riding his motorcycle from his Mississippi home to St. Louis.

It's all for his dad, Air Force Technical Sergeant Louis J. Clever.

"He had been in 13 years, he was more of a career oriented person," Clever said.

It's a trip Paul knows all too well.

He will lay his father to rest at Jefferson Barracks Cemetery, for the second time.

"My dad was killed in 1969,” Clever said. “He and 9 others were flying a mission over the Ho Chi Minh trail in Laos."

Laotian forces came across the downed plane and the crew members' bodies inside.

"They weren't qualified in remains recovery,” Clever said. “They just sort of picked up the remains and brought them home."

Paul was 6-years-old at the time and looking for closure.

"When I was a boy, I was sort of lost," Clever said. "You know you lose your dad, nobody knows how to act and emotions are all over the place."

So he started his own investigation.

"I came to learn and came to understand that the Air Force actually knew that they hadn't accounted for everybody but made the choice not to go back to crash site," Clever said.

When Clever approached the Air Force years later, he says they still weren't interested in reopening the case.

So in 2012, Paul and his wife, Nita Clever, went to the Laotian jungle to find his dad.

"My wife and I, we had been doing it for a couple of days and we were going up this creek bed and there was a little flash of light from a broken piece of glass."

They had stumbled across the crash site.

"Nita and I were afraid to say anything for a long time,” Clever said. “It didn't take long to realize we'd found it."

Paul recovered several bone fragments and brought them home.

DNA testing at a military facility assured Clever, he finally found his dad.

"It's like I've found the cure to insanity,” Paul said. “That burden that was with me, I'm relieved of such a major part of me that I've carried for so long."

Clever is on a journey, 46 years in the making - to finally get the closure he's been searching for.

"Knowing that he's home, knowing that he's going to be back with my mother, we're not so much going to a funeral but to a celebration and we're going to celebrate," Clever said.

Clever says DNA test also identified other crewmen on his dad's plane bringing closure to those families.

He says he hopes his ride raises awareness for the thousands of military families with loved ones who are missing in action.

Louis J. Clever's wake was held at Kutis Funeral Home in Mehiville, Mo. He will be buried at the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery next to his late wife.

Paul Clever set up and runs a Facebook page for family members of the crewmen abroad his father's EC-47 plane, CAP72.

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