'Body not recovered' - SA family waits for closure

Sgt. Juan Jimenez never came home from Vietnam War

SAN ANTONIO – When Juan Jimenez left for Vietnam in 1967, his sister, Angelina Alonzo, had a bad feeling.

"I can just see him waving bye, telling us 'Bye,'" Alonzo recalled. "And I knew deep inside he wasn't going to come back."

Nor did he. Killed in 1968, Sgt. Juan Jimenez is one of 1,627 Americans who remain unaccounted for in southeast Aisa, 40 years after the end of U.S. involvement in Vietnam.

"We just keep on waiting," said his older brother, Paul Jimenez.

It was Paul who heard the news first. Returning with his wife from their 16th anniversary dinner in 1968, he arrived at home to find a chaplain and two U.S. Army officers.

"But they told me he was only missing in action," Paul Jimenez said. "They didn't tell me he was passed away."

The family soon heard differently from a friend Juan served with, Sgt. Manuel Morin. Morin said Jimenez was killed by a piece of shrapnel during an attack on a special forces camp they were defending.

"The medics tried to keep him alive, but Jimenez was gone," Alonzo read from a letter Morin had written 47 years prior.

His body never made it home, though, and he remains officially listed as "killed in action, body not recovered."

Even with a firsthand account of his death, it's hard for his family to accept.

"Mom and dad waited for him," said Paul Jimenez. "Hoping that he would come back, but he never did."

His sister harbors her own hope against hope, too.

"But, I mean, if we don't see his body, we're still hoping he's still alive," she said. "And I say to myself, 'Maybe he got married over there,' and he stayed over there. But he wouldn't do something like that."

Without the body, all the family has are his medals, a flag and a memorial marker at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery.

"It's only memories (that) are left behind," Alonzo said. "So hopefully someday his remains will be here, but I doubt it."

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