A veteran's emotional goodbye to son at Vietnam Memorial - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

A veteran's emotional goodbye to son at Vietnam Memorial

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Angelo Papale was one of nearly 90 World War II veterans who traveled to see their memorial in the nation's capital in late September. During the war, Angelo flew 30 bombing missions as a gunner on board a B24. Somehow, he made it back alive and unscathed.

At 88, this was the first time he has ever gone to the WWII Memorial. Like the rest of the veteran's on the trip, he called it a great honor.

For Angelo and the other vets, the day also included a stop at the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial Wall, where they saw all those names of soldiers gone too soon. For Angelo, the stop was personal, because one of those 58,195 names, is that of Arthur L. Papale, Angelo's son.

It was 1969, when Arthur Papale was shot down while piloting a helicopter.

"He had gone in and picked up two rangers," Angelo said. "He went back to pick up more, and there was too much firepower. So he went back a third time and that is when they shot him down."

Angelo and his wife did not learn of their son's fate until several days later, while at their Biloxi home.

"I saw these three uniformed officers walking down our road, and I thought, 'Oh my God.' I knew something had happened," he said.

On this late September day, some 42 years after his son's death, Angelo came to the wall to say goodbye to his oldest boy. He carefully made an etching of his son's name. For a father, whose son died trying to save others, this was a way of connecting with his boy again.

"I put my hand on Art's name," Angelo said. "You get that feeling that you are seeing it. It is yours, a part of you. That is my boy now."

Arthur was 25 when he died, Anthony is 88, and a survivor of WWII. The irony of that is not lost on Angelo. He said for some reason, it just was not his time. But sadly, it was his son's time.

The wall has been called a place of healing, and now Angelo Papale understands that all too well. He left saying he felt at peace and can accept his son's death at such a young age.

Mr. Papale wanted to thank the Mississippi Gulf Coast Honor Flight program, because without their help, he would have never had the chance to go to the Vietnam Memorial.

Copyright 2011 WLOX. All rights reserved.

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