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Name: CW3 Randolph Jefferson Ard
Status: Remains were returned on Dec 2004 from an incident on 03/07/1971 while performing the duty of Pilot.
Declared dead on 09/18/1978.
Age at death: 19.7
Date of Birth: 06/16/1951
Home City: West Pensacola, FL
Service: AV branch of the reserve component of the U.S. Army.
Unit: 1 BDE 5 MECH
Major organization:
Flight class: 70-31
Service: AV branch of the U.S. Army.
The Wall location: 04W-030
Short Summary: Shot down in Laos. Ard trapped in wreckage when NVA arrived. Passengers E&E. See Into Laos.
Aircraft: OH-58A tail number 68-16814
Country: Laos
MOS: *
Primary cause: Hostile Fire
Major attributing cause: aircraft connected not at sea
Compliment cause: vehicular accident
Vehicle involved: helicopter
Position in vehicle: pilot
Vehicle ownership: government
Started Tour: 11/26/1970
"Official" listing: helicopter air casualty - pilot
The initial status of this person was: missing in action - bonified
Length of service: *
Military grid coordinates of event: XD652382

Additional information about this casualty:
34 years in limbo Family finds peace as son's remains return from Laos Wednesday, March 02, 2005 By SHELBY G. SPIRES Times Military Writer ALBERTVILLE - Emmie Ard has a set of fine china in her dining room that her son, Randy, sent while he was flying Army helicopters in South Vietnam. It was delivered the day after Ard and her family were told that Randy, 20, was missing in action after his helicopter was shot down over Laos on March 7, 1971. For 34 years, the china set has never been used. "We wouldn't ... couldn't bring ourselves to eat off it," said Nell Vanvooren, Randy Ard's sister. "It sat in a china cabinet since 1971." After more than three decades of waiting, Randy Ard's family now knows without a doubt that he never left Southeast Asia and died at the hands of enemy soldiers there in the jungle. His remains were identified in December by a special Army lab in Hawaii and the family learned the results in January. "It was very hard to go through it at first, and I cried every day for a long time, but I put it behind me," Emmie Ard said Tuesday. "I think 34 years is a long time to wait for an answer, but he's coming home now, and I have peace with that now," Emmie Ard said. "But I still think about the families who don't have peace. There are so many who don't know. "I hope they all will one day." Few days pass that Randy Ard's family members don't think about him, Vanvooren said. "I always wonder how he would have done something and what he would have thought about something," she said. "He was the oldest and I looked up to him. "This news gives me some peace. I'm just glad he didn't suffer and wasn't in a prison camp for years." Randy Ard will be buried March 19 at the Marshall Memorial Gardens during a family ceremony. Flying was his dream He dreamed of flying and wanted to be a pilot most of his life, his mother said. As a teenager, he washed planes at an airport near Pensacola - where the family lived in the late 1960s - in trade for flying lessons to earn his private pilot's license. Dedication and good grades in high school earned him an appointment to the Air Force Academy, Emmie Ard said. There was no promise of flight duty after four years at the academy, though. "He turned (the Air Force Academy) down because the Army told him they would let him fly," Emmie Ard said, "but he had to fly whatever type of aircraft they chose for him. "He came to me and asked me what I thought about it, and I didn't really want him to go into the (Army) because of what was going on in Vietnam at the time." Emmie Ard told her son "that he was grown and could do what he wanted and if that's what he wanted to do, I was fine by it." Randy went through flight training in 1970 at Fort Rucker in South Alabama, and soon found himself flying helicopters in Vietnam. On March 7, 1971, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Randy Ard took off in an OH-58 Kiowa helicopter with two passengers from Quang Tri, in what was then the northern portion of South Vietnam. "He was taking passengers in to Laos," said his brother, John, who gleaned information on his brother's fate from the Army and survivors. "But the (enemy) had a radio and convinced him to land at another place. He came in to the landing zone and, just as he was hovering, they opened up, shooting him down." The helicopter went down in Laos just across the Vietnam-Laos border, in the village of Ban Kahn. Randy sustained two broken legs and a shattered pelvis in the crash, but the other two managed to drag him free of the wrecked Army helicopter, John Ard said. Shortly after the helicopter went down, enemy soldiers were approaching the crash site and the small position of three Americans was about to be overrun. "Randy opened up with his pistol to keep them back, but the others left," John Ard said. "He didn't survive ..." The knock on the door On a pleasant Sunday evening in early March 1971, a government sedan pulled up to the Ard residence with two Army officers. They came bringing the news that Randy was missing in action. "I knew it was bad when I heard the knock on the door and saw the two men from the Army standing outside," Vanvooren said. "I shuddered and I knew it was bad." The news shattered their world, but not knowing what happened to Randy would haunt the Ards for decades. "I think if we had known he was not coming back it would have eased the pain, but this changed my family," Vanvooren said. "It certainly weighed on my parents and it made their life harsh at times." Randy Ard's father, Tess, who died in November 2002, was realistic about his son's fate. "He never lied to himself about it," Vanvooren said. "He knew Randy wasn't coming back. It bothered him greatly not having a final answer." For years the Ard family had few details about Randy. They knew he wasn't with them and was a missing part of their life. It was 34 years of birthdays, family events, Christmas holidays and a 1975 family move to Albertville without Randy. "All we knew at first was he had been shot down and was missing in action," John Ard said. "The details came out more and more over the years, some from the Army and some from the people who were there, but we didn't know all that much at first." As a teenager, Vanvooren would play games with herself thinking her brother was alive and well, living an exotic life in Southeast Asia. "I'd think maybe he had woke up and not known where he was and now he was married to a beautiful Asian woman and living a wonderful life," she said. As the years passed and pages on the calendar turned, Randy's family came to realize his life had ended in the Laotian jungle. "Logically, after a few years, you know he's not coming home," Vanvooren said. "You have to face that." The Army provides advisers to help families when their loved ones are classified as missing. It was a nice gesture, Vanvooren and her mother said. "At first, as a kid, you hate the Army. It was the Army that took my brother away," Vanvooren, 50, said. "But as you grow older that fades and, in the end, I've come to appreciate the Army for what they have done for the families. For the professional support they have offered." Change in status The Department of Defense changed Randy's status in 1978, John Ard said, from "missing in action" to "missing, presumed dead" because of the number of years that had passed without any information on the case. That provided little comfort to the family. Status changes don't provide answers. However, to have his remains on the way home holds the peace the Ards are looking for, John Ard said. "It's a great relief to know this is done," he said. "I want him to be able to walk in here, but I know that's not going to happen," Emmie Ard said. "I've put this to rest and I'm at peace with it now." For 1,842 families that peace may be elusive. That's the number of unsolved missing-in-action cases the Department of Defense still has on the books from the Vietnam War. The American involvement in the Vietnam War ended when U.S. troops left in April 1975. For years after the war, the Vietnamese government had limited relations with the U.S. government. In 1995, the United States and Vietnam established trade relations. Part of that deal was a full accounting of American servicemen lost in Southeast Asia. Crash site graves have been identified and sets of remains have been sent to the special Army lab in Hawaii over the past decade. Several sets of remains a year are identified by the lab, bringing closure to family members. As Randy's family make preparations for a burial, the china set he sent home in 1971 sits looking brand new, unused in a glass cabinet. "We've talked about using it now that we know, but it would be strange to eat off the china now," Vanvooren said. "I think it'll stay where it is for now." He was awarded the Silver Star in 1979.

Web site(s) refering to this casualty:

Reason: aircraft lost or crashed
Casualty type: Hostile - died while missing
single male U.S. citizen
Race: Caucasian
Religion: Protestant - no denominational preference
The following information secondary, but may help in explaining this incident.
Category of casualty as defined by the Army: battle dead Category of personnel: active duty Army Military class: warrant officer
This record was last updated on 05/09/2013

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Date posted on this site: 11/13/2023

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