The remains of a fallen Vietnam pilot returned home Thursday, 45 years after Lt. Commander William Patrick Egan was shot down.
His whereabouts were unknown until a DNA sample provided by his niece a decade ago matched bone fragments a farmer in Laos turned over to U.S. officials in late 2009.
"The first thing I would say is mission accomplished; those are the best words," Linda Sanders told Houston's ABC affiliate KTRK. "I always was worried about him, but I always knew he'd be home, eventually. I didn't think it was going to take this long."
A Navy officer presented Egan's widow, Anne Egan, with an urn containing his remains.
"I've been waiting for them to find him all these years," she told the Houston Chronicle. A burial is scheduled for Saturday.
Egan's A1-H Skyraider was shot down April 19, 1966 during a then-secret mission bombing a military complex in Laos. At the time, the military only listed Egan as missing before later acknowledging the classified mission, the Chronicle reported.