Associated Press


Lisa Szymanski spent years sleeping with a photo of her father under a pillow, hoping he would return home. Finally, Szymanski’s mother ended the practice — and her father never came home.

Now, Szymanski and her brother know what happened to Staff Sgt. Lawrence Woods almost 50 years after he packed up his duffel bag, reported to Fort Campbell and left for Vietnam. The military has found and identified Woods’ remains near the site where his plane went down in Cambodia in 1964.

“This is really happening, and they really did find him after all these years,” Szymanski told The Associated Press in a phone interview from her home in Fort Myers, Fla.

Bill Costello, a spokesman for the Human Resources Command at Fort Knox, Ky., which oversees the Past Conflict Repatriations Branch, confirmed that officials contacted Szymanski. Officials are trying to work out a date to brief the family about the remains.

“Until that happens, Past Conflicts doesn’t consider the case as positively identified,” Costello said.

For his son, Steve Woods of Clarksville, Tenn., the news from the military thrilled him.

“This was a great day for me,” said Woods, who also linked to a picture on his Facebook page of his father’s name on the National Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Lawrence Woods, a member of the 5th Special Forces Group, left his home in Clarksville, Tenn., in 1963. Steve Woods remembers playing on the front porch and seeing his father walking by in full uniform.

“He told me, ‘I gotta go,'” Steve Woods said. “That was the last I had seen of him.”

The deployment would be the last in a military career that started when Woods was 15 and lied about his age to join the Army in 1940. After being kicked out, Woods signed up again once he reached 18 and, except for a brief period, stayed with the military thereafter.

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