Ceremonies honor fallen Vietnam War pilot

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ASSUMPTION, Ill. (WAND)- Hundreds gathered in Assumption Monday for the funeral services of Air Force Captain Joseph Smith who died during the Vietnam War.

Smith died April 4, 1971 in Cambodia during a mission. Another pilot who flew on that mission attended the funeral Mass and burial.

“We were scrambled off the alert pad to what we call a “troops-in-contact,” said Ron Sharek. “When we got there, there was heavy ground fire. You just have to go down there and deliver the ordnance, and unfortunately, some of that groundfire got Joe.”

Another man, who attended the University of Notre Dame and trained with Smith traveled from the San Francisco area to attend the ceremonies.

“Joe kind of … took me under his wing,” said Jim Erdos. “He was kind of my big brother for the six weeks or so before we graduated. He was always a very wonderful individual, and I’m glad to have known him. He played a very important part in my life.”

Captain Smith’s remains were recovered and confirmed by DNA testing this year.

“I’ve always thought of Joe, thought of him quite frequently. I never thought this day would come,” Sharek said. “It’s good that he’s at rest here at home.”

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