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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Norman Roggow remembered

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Photos of Norman Roggow and his medals were displayed at a memorial service for the former Aurelian.
He was a handsome young man. Family photos attest to that. They depict him as a smiling boy, growing up in a close-knit family and looking forward to his future.

They also show him as a Navy aviator, looking gallant in his uniform and wanting to make the world a better place.

Lt. Norman Roggow came home to Le Mars Friday, more than 40 years after his death.

Funeral services were held Friday at Grace Lutheran Church to honor the 26-year-old aviator who lost his life, along with four crewmen, on Oct. 8, 1967, near Da Nang, Vietnam.

The Roggow family lived on the family in Cherokee County before purchasing the Le Mars Motel in 1967.

His parents, Orville Edward and Linda M. (Beckman) Roggow, were the parents of five children, Connace, Marva, Diane, Curtis, and Norman, their eldest.

Norman attended Brooke Consolidated High School in rural Peterson before graduating from Wayne State College with a BA in business management. In February 1964, the 23 year old was commissioned an Ensign in the United State Navy.

The following year, he was designated a Naval Aviator and Lt. j.g. Roggow reported to VT-1 as a flight instructor and in October 1966, he reported to Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron Eleven.

Six months later, he was transferred to Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 111, Detachment 34.

Curt Roggow wasn't surprised by his older brother's quick rise.

"Norman was a natural leader," Curt says, "at least in his little brother's eyes."

Despite the 12 year age difference between the two Roggow boys, Curt always felt close to Norman.

"Norman enlisted in the service when I was in the third grade," Curt recalls. "I was proud of him."

"Mom and dad were proud to have a son serving in the military," Curt remembers many years later. "We all were."

DPMO information states that on October 8, 1967, Lt. j.g. Norman L. Roggow, of Aurelia, and Lt. j.g. Andrew Zissu of the Bronx, N.Y. were the pilots of an E11B Tracer en route from Chu Lai Air Base, Vietnam. Also on the board the plane heading back to the aircraft carrier USS Oriskany were Lt. Donald F. Wolfe, of Hardin, Mont.; Atc. Roland R. Pineau, of Berkley, Mich., and JO3 Raul A. Guerra, of Los Angeles. All were members of the U.S. Navy.

Adverse weather conditions hampered immediate search efforts, but three days later, a search helicopter spotted the wreckage of the aircraft on the face of a steep mountain in Da Nang Province.

The location, terrain, and hostile forces in the area precluded a ground recovery.

The first information the family received was that Norman's plane was overdue. A day later, a telegram arrived stating that he was missing in action "possibly in enemy territory."

"Then a few days after that, we got a telegram that said they'd found the crash site and all had died," Curt explains. "Nothing, then or more recently suggests the plane was shot down. It was flying in bad weather."

Fast forward 36 years.

In 1993 and 1994, human remains were repatriated to the United States by the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (S.R.V.) that linked the remains to unassociated losses in the same geographical area as this incident.

Between 1993 and 2004, U.S./S.R.V. teams, all led by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), investigated the incident more than 15 times in Da Nang City and Thuya Thien-Hue Province.

It was during this time that Roggow's sisters Connie and Marva were asked to donate blood samples for DNA tests.

"As it turned out, our family DNA was fairly unique," Curt says, "compared to what they had in their samples."

"We knew about the search for many years," he continues. "We didn't know exactly when we'd hear something. And then finally, it's 'oh, we did find something.'"

"After 40 years, it brings back some memories and emotions," Curt adds.

Those emotions were made evident Friday as Lt. Norman Roggow was memorialized with full military honors provided by the U.S. Navy and the Wasmer American Legion Post #241 of Le Mars.

Patriot Guard Riders, representing the states of Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota Dakota, and Iowa, were present during the ceremonies.

"It's very unusual to attend a funeral for someone who's been dead almost as long as I've been alive," says the Patriot Guard Riders' Mark Miller, "but it's an honor to be here."

The funeral, which took place at Le Mars' Grace Lutheran Church, attracted family, friends, and even strangers, as they paid their belated respects.

The Rev. Larry Fett echoed the sentiment of the family by thanking people who had come thousands of miles to pay their respects to an American hero.

Roggow's remains, stored in a box that contained the Navy seal, was escorted to and from the church by U.S. Navy personnel.

Fett, in eulogizing the fallen Naval aviator, expressed memories of his own.

"I remember when I was 19 years old," he stated. "I was in my car and on my way to work, listening to the radio. They were announcing the draft numbers."

"I didn't know what I wanted to hear," Fett reflects. "Well, maybe I did know. I was hoping to hear I had a high number, which I did. I didn't want to be away from my family and friends and the life that I had."

"I didn't go to Vietnam," he said, "and I've always regretted it. These brave young people risked their lives, endured injuries, and some made the ultimate sacrifice for all of us."

"They fought for us," Fett added, "so we didn't have to fight ourselves. And they reminded us that freedom is never really free."

As Fett concluded his eulogy, a recording of "I Can Only Imagine" by the contemporary Christian group MercyMe played in the background.

Bagpipes were played at Norman Roggow's funeral service
As attendees began filing out of the church, they were serenaded by the baleful tones of bagpipes.

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