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Thirty Years Later, Vietnam Veteran's Remains Arrive In North Carolina

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HARNETT COUNTY — A Harnett County woman has waited 30 years to bury a son who died in the Vietnam War. Her son's remains are finally back in North Carolina.

The Army reported Jimmy Butler missing in March 1970. Eight years later, they declared him dead.

For his mother, Myrtie Norris, it has been a strange mix of pain and peace.

"It'll always hurt to know that you've lost of your own children," Norris says. "I know his body is here instead of over there. It means a whole lot."

Norris proudly watched her son, Jimmy, leave home in uniform. After thirty years in Vietnam, he was presumed dead when his plane was shot down, but his mother was still not sure.

"I still wanted to hope he was alive, and I could pick up that phone and hear him speak," Norris says. "I've never dreamed that he was dead. I dreamed a lot, but I've never dreamed he was dead."

"This just has to be some some kind of closure for all of them, for the whole family," says sister-in-law Pat Butler.

Norris says her son always had a smile on his face if he was mad enough to hit you.

"I said I reckon if I was to know he was living and he walked in the door, I would have a heart attack," Norris says. "First thing he would say was, 'Hey Mama, what's going on, what's you got cooking.'"

It is still hard for Norris as she clings to the memories of her son.

"It's gonna hurt for awhile right on," Norris says. "Well, you just have to accept it. I just have to accept it, I have no choice."

The Army actually identified Butler's remains three years ago. The family has no idea why it has taken so long to bring them home.

Butler will be laid to rest Sunday afternoon with full military honors, the 25th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War.

The Butler family is not alone in the search for closure.

TheU.S. Department of Defenseestimates there are still 2,086 Americans missing in action from the Vietnam War. About 1,400 cases are still being investigated.

For about 500 families, there may never be an answer. The U.S. Department of Defense classifies those as "Impossible to resolve."


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