How far would you go to bring your loved one home? Would you take on your own country’s military? How about if God was guiding you? One woman did, and her incredible story is a uniquely American testament to the power of tenacity and trust.
This is the Forgotten History of a Mother’s Faith.
Jean Blassie just knew. Deep within her soul, she knew. As she stared at the Tomb of the Unknowns, an indescribable feeling welled up inside her. It wasn’t a woman’s intuition or a mother’s instinct; it was nothing short of divine intervention. She knew it. God Himself was talking to her, telling her that it was her son buried in that tomb.
Just a few years earlier, President Ronald Reagan held a memorial service for the Unknown Soldier from Vietnam, whose remains were recovered from near An Loc five months after a plane crash in 1972.
That brave young man’s body joined the remains of soldiers from World War I, World War II, and the Korean War, to rest permanently in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
But was he actually known?
Jean couldn’t explain why she was so sure that unknown was her son Michael other than her unshakable belief. But she also had compelling evidence. On May 11, 1972, Michael—a First Lieutenant in the Air Force—was piloting an A37-B Dragonfly that was shot down near the area where the body of the unknown soldier was recovered.
Not only that, word started to circulate in Air Force circles that the recovery team who found the skeletal remains found with it a piece of a flight suit, dog tags, and even a wallet with a family picture inside. Obviously, that would have definitively identified t he body, but when the recovery team turned over the body and all of the effects found with it to the mortuary in Saigon, they were separated from the body, and coroners determined that the estimated height and age did not match Michael Blassie.
As the Vietnam War drew to a close, there were thousands of soldiers designated as missing in action, but almost none who were deceased but unidentified. The body found near An Loc was one of the only ones.
In 1984, the government decided that it would be interred in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier as the Vietnam War’s unknown.
But Jean Blassie knew, she just knew that that body was her Michael. And she fought to bring him home. She wrote letters, she met with military brass, she lobbied Congressmen, she worked tirelessly to prove that the Vietnam Unknown wasn’t unknown at all.
But the military was adamant: There wasn’t enough evidence to warrant an exhumation. And besides, how could Jean ever prove that a skeleton was her son?
In the early 1990s, though, new advances in DNA technology began to make such identification possible. Jean worked even harder to prove that the military had evidence that the body was Michael but wasn’t releasing it.
She wasn’t the only one. In 1994, a retired Army Green Beret had been looking over old Vietnam records and found smoking gun evidence that the Air Force had indeed recovered Michael’s dog tags and family picture with the skeletal remains they found near the site of his crash five months after his plane was shot down.
Somehow, that record had been forgotten, but it all but proved that the body in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was that of Michael Blassie.
And the Air Force seemed to be covering up its mistake.
When Jean found out, she was angry, but more than that, she was elated and determined; she now had the evidence she needed to force the military to exhume the body for DNA testing that would prove once and for all it was her Michael.
In 1998, it did. And Jean and her family had a choice to make: Would Michael remain in the Tomb of the Unknowns or would he come home? They didn’t hesitate. He would finally, 26 years after his death, be laid to rest near his home in St. Louis.
The military never replaced his remains in the Tomb of the Unknowns, meaning that the Vietnam War was the only one of the major conflicts in the 20th Century not to have a representative. This absence serves to this day as a testament to the power of faith and family, tireless tenacity, and one woman’s unshakeable belief that God was guiding her to her son.