YARBROUGH COLUMN:

Published 1:56 pm Monday, December 11, 2023

The mystery is solved. I now know what happened to my fraternity brother, Maj. Paschal Boggs, USMC, who was declared Missing in Action in 1967. Finally, there is a sense of closure.

Pat Boggs and I were from the same town, East Point, and we were both undergrads at the University of Georgia. I happened to run into him one day on campus and he invited me to visit his fraternity, Lambda Chi Alpha. I did. I was accepted and Pat became my official Big Brother. His job was to guide me through the process from being a lowly pledge to becoming a full-fledged member. Somehow, he succeeded and Lambda Chi Alpha become my home and its members my brothers, including a guy from Cartersville named Joe Frank Harris, who later became Georgia’s 78th governor.

Pat and I lost contact after graduation. All I knew was that he had joined the military. In the meantime, I had begun my own career and in 1967; I was Southern Bell’s media relations representative in Atlanta. One of my responsibilities was to know the local media and have them know me. That included visiting local newspaper editors.

On one such trip to Henry County, while I was waiting for the editor to finish a phone call, I picked up the paper and saw front-page headlines that U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Paschal Boggs, of Henry County, had been reported missing in action in Vietnam. It was a kick in the gut. And coincidence No. 1. Had I not been at that newspaper office in that town on that day, I might never have known this.

Fast forward a couple of decades. I am now a vice president of BellSouth Corporation and have a staff in Washington that I visit on a regular basis. Each morning before heading to the office, I would jog the National Mall, passing the Washington Monument, the Smithsonian museums and Lincoln Memorial, among other landmarks.

Coincidence No. 2: One morning – and I don’t understood why to this day – something made me stop in front of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial that I had passed innumerable times on my daily runs. The Memorial contains the names of more than 58,000 servicemen and women who lost their lives in the Vietnam war.

I walked over to the Memorial and looked straight at Maj. Paschal Boggs’ name. Or, said another way, it jumped out at me. It was as though we were reconnecting some 20-plus years after our days at UGA. I still get goosebumps thinking about it.

I have written about Pat Boggs many times since then, wondering what happened to him. Through the power of the internet, I finally have my answer and coincidence No. 3. Someone – I don’t who – shared my column with Pat’s brother-in-law, Ron Breuch, in Monterey, California, who contacted me. Ron was married to Pat’s younger sister, Cecile, who passed away in 2003.

“Ceil was very active in the POW/MIA movement,” he told me, “and traveled many times to Washington in attempts to get North Vietnam to follow international rules on POWs and MIAs. It was not until 2005, when I accompanied Pat’s father, Gilmer Boggs, to an official Marine Corps meeting where we were briefed on the results of recovery efforts started after North Vietnam finally opened their country to US military teams, that we finally knew the complete story of what happened in August of 1967 over North Vietnam.”

Pat Boggs was navigator on a two-man Grumman A6 launched from a carrier at night. Loaded with ordinance, it was headed for North Vietnam. According to reports, visibility was poor and their aircraft hit a karst, a limestone formation prominent on the coast. Witnesses heard the explosion. Total devastation. U.S. military recovery teams later found only their harnesses and a non-government issued pistol Pat always carried with him. Nothing more.

It has been more than a half-century since Pat Boggs went missing, and as tragic as the news, I am indebted to Ron Breuch for reaching out to me from Monterey, California, with the rest of the story. But the coincidences don’t stop there. My friend, Wade Lnenicka, a former member of the Smyrna City Council, 5th District Commander of the American Legion Department of Georgia and an all-around Great American, informed me that he wears an POW-MIA bracelet engraved with the name of someone he didn’t know. After reading my column, now he does. My fraternity brother, Maj. Paschal Boggs USMC. May he rest in peace.