Bill Parkinson was only a kid – a long-haired hippie just out of high school – the day they buried his namesake.
He stood silently as a caisson drawn by six chestnut horses carried two flag-draped coffins that were said to contain the remains of his uncle and nine other men.
Nobody really knew for sure.
Three decades had passed since the men’s B-24 bomber inexplicably vanished into a Southeast Asian jungle. By the time natives found skeletal remains among rusted, scattered wreckage, the ravages of time and weather had taken their toll.
The discovery of a few dog tags was enough evidence to ease the hearts of loved ones gathered that day in 1974 at Arlington National Cemetery.
Surviving mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers wiped away tears; nieces and nephews too young to know the World War II dead stood by their side.
A squad of riflemen fired a three-shot volley; a bugler sounded taps, and the ground swallowed the caskets.
More than 30 years after his death, William R. Parkinson – Norfolk native, strapping young husband, 22-year-old bomber pilot – was laid to rest Oct. 18, 1974.
Soon, he will finally come home.