The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is both a moving tribute to those who have died in American wars and a reminder of how war steals human dignity. An unidentified soldier from each of the major American conflicts of the 20th century have been laid to rest in the monument at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. Represented are World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.
The remains of the Vietnam War veteran were placed in the Tomb on Memorial Day 1984 in a ceremony attended by President Reagan, who awarded the unidentified soldier a posthumous Medal of Honor. But CBS News reporter Vince Gonzalez thought it would be more honorable to find out the unknown soldier’s identity of the latest unknown. After digging through Vietnam-era military records and unresolved missing-in-action reports, Gonzalez determined that the man was most likely Lt. Michael Blassie, an Air Force pilot from St. Louis. His plane had been shot down in May 1972, and he was never heard from again. At that time there was no way to accurately tell whether the remains were, in fact, Blassie’s. It wasn’t until 1998—14 years later—that DNA testing had advanced to a point that they were good enough to allow the Blassie family to ask the government exhume and test the remains of the Vietnam Unknown Soldier. A DNA test confirmed that the solider was Lt. Blassie. He was re-buried in a family plot in a cemetery in St. Louis.