Archive for July 10th, 2011

July 10, 2011

Vietnam Air Force Veteran Buried at Arlington National Cemetery 40 Years After Death

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Updated: Friday, 08 Jul 2011, 11:00 PM EDT
Published : Friday, 08 Jul 2011, 7:36 PM EDT

By BOB BARNARD/myfoxdc

ARLINGTON, Va. – Air Force Major Richard Elzinga was buried Friday at Arlington National Cemetery, more than 40 years after he died in the jungles of Southeast Asia.

The Oregon native had been Missing in Action from the Vietnam War. His name is engraved in the wall on the mall.

“Makes me proud,” Vietnam veteran Dennis Brooks of Birmingham, Alabama said at the Vietnam Memorial. “Makes me have hope that they can find some of the others that are missing over there.”

Richard Elzinga died at age 27. Cousins Joan Bergsteinsson and Alan Brink are the closest family members still living and attended this afternoon’s burial service.

“I really thought that there was going to be no reconciliation on this in my lifetime,” Bergsteinsson said.

“I was a senior in college when I got the call from my father that his plane was missing,” said Brink.

Elzinga was shot down over Laos on March 26, 1970. He was on a secret training mission for an Air Force unit called the Ravens.

“We flew just about every day,” former Raven Darrel Whitcomb said. “Going out, looking for, finding and destroying their targets. Calling in fighter bombers, Air Force, Navy, Marines whatever we could get to attack the North Vietnamese who were trying to overrun that country and also run the Ho Chi Minh trail and move their forces into South Vietnam.”

The only clues to surface in Elzinga’s case were some traveler’s checks he was carrying when he was shot down. A communist agent in Laos tried to cash them three years later.

“They’re in perfect shape, so somebody knows what happened,” said Brink explains.

But there was nothing. Not until about a year ago when a joint U.S./Laotian MIA search team found the crash site and a three-inch piece of bone.

Joan Bergsteinsson said she didn’t get her hopes up.

“And even when we were told that it could come from that crash site, we knew it could be either Dick, the pilot Henry Allen, or it could be a dog, a cat or whatever else was in the jungle,” she said.

What they needed was DNA, but from Elzinga’s mother’s side of the family.

“His mother did not have any sisters,” said Brink. “We had to contact our grandmother’s sister’s descendants.”

They eventually found one in Michigan.

“I had never heard of her,” said Bergsteinsson. “She had never heard of me.”

But she gave a sample and it was a match. And now 41 years later, Air Force Major Dick Elzinga can be laid to rest.

“We had closure today,” said Brink.

Bergsteinsson summed it up this way: “It was a beautiful service and we really appreciate all that the military does to bring their fallen comrades home.”

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July 10, 2011

Joint operation nets poaching ‘kingpin’: SARS officials into the activities of the suspect and a trading company based in Laos


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STAFF REPORTER | 09 July, 2011 23:29

A Thai national believed to be a kingpin in the illicit trade of rhino horns was arrested yesterday morning in a major breakthrough against rhino poaching.

The 43-year-old man was arrested at a house in Edenvale, east of Johannesburg, in a joint operation by the South African Revenue Service (SARS), the Hawks and forensic investigator Paul O’Sullivan.

The man, who is due to appear in court tomorrow, was searched by SARS officials at OR Tambo International Airport when he entered the country on June 13.

According to SARS spokesman Anton Fisher, officials found various documents on the man – including an order for 50 sets of rhino horns, a computer and a cellphone.

Said Fisher: “The suspect allegedly obtained rhino- hunting permits under false pretences in terms of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites).

“Such permits issued under Cites are specifically for trophy hunting and not for the illicit trade in rhino horn.”

It is believed that once the animals were killed on supposed trophy-hunting trips in South Africa, the rhino horns were sent abroad by the suspect who paid, on average, about R65000 per kilogram for the rhino horns.

Fisher added: “The arrest follows an extensive investigation by SARS officials into the activities of the suspect and a trading (import/export) company based in Laos (in south east Asia).”

Yesterday’s arrest comes after the successful prosecution of another Thai national, Punpitak Chunchom, for the illegal possession of lion claws and teeth.

He was deported last week. Both Chunchom and the man arrested are employed by the same export company.

The “hunting” of the rhino is believed to have taken place at a farm in North West.

It has also been established that more hunting was planned until the end of the year and that the poachers were hoping to kill at least 15 rhino a month and ship the horns to Thailand.

Last year, in the Kruger National Park alone, more than 146 rhinos were poached for their horns.

The current wave of poaching is being committed by sophisticated criminal networks using helicopters, night-vision equipment, veterinary tranquillisers and silencers to kill rhinos at night while attempting to avoid law enforcement patrols.

O’Sullivan commended SARS and the Hawks for having “done an excellent job in combating this scourge”.

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