A Kennewick woman is hoping the resignation of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel won’t further slow the search for her brother’s remains in Vietnam.
“They say it takes at least a year to get in there and get stuff going,” Terri Francisco-Farrell said.
Hagel had overseen the creation of an oversight committee to deal with the merger of two Defense Department agencies responsible for recovering remains of fallen military members, like those of her brother — Air Force Maj. San D. Francisco, the co-pilot of an F-4 Phantom fighter-bomber shot down 46 years ago Nov. 25.
“I think it’s going to delay it,” said Roger Gray, a Central Washington University classmate of Francisco’s, who recently helped organize a fundraiser at the Ellensburg school. “(Hagel) was basically saying (to the agencies), ‘Get your act together.’ ”
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Francisco-Farrell remains hopeful that searches for her brother will continue after being reassured by staff members for Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., she said.
“She assured me that she will be bringing the retrieval issue to the forefront when they interview people to take the job,” she said of defense secretary candidates.
Murray spokesman Sean Coit confirmed that her office has been in direct contact with Francisco-Farrell.
“We will, of course, continue working with the Department of Defense and the next secretary to recover her brother's remains,” Coit said.
Francisco-Farrell said the Oct. 18 fundraiser for the San D. Francisco Awareness Campaign raised $3,000.
The group, formed by members of a former fraternity at the college, are looking at having another fundraiser, possibly on Feb. 28 to celebrate his birthday (which was actually Feb. 29, 1944). Gray said they have been speaking to Kennewick real estate broker Dave Retter about it.
“It’s like anything else, you have to get ahold of the story and share it the best that you can,” Gray said.
Francisco-Farrell also plans to visit Arizona next month to meet with the son of Maj. Joseph C. Morrison, whom Francisco was flying with on a reconnaissance mission over Quang Binh province in North Vietnam. After ejecting, Francisco was captured by members of the Vietnamese Youth Army and killed by mortar rounds from an American rescue mission intended to save him. Morrison was shot in the head while resisting arrest.
Francisco-Farrell was also recently interviewed by Phlash Phelps, a host on SiriusXM satellite radio. Portions of the interview were played on Phelps’ show on the service’s 1960s music channel.
But she will continue to push for more retrieval trips to Vietnam before witnesses to Francisco’s crash are unable to provide assistance in locating him.
“I just hope that next year will will be the end of my work,” Francisco-Farrell said. “I just think that we’re going in the right direction.”