He has been missing in action longer than any other Rochester
man or woman who served in Vietnam
Col. Joseph Christiano was brought home- and buried- at Arlington National Cemetery Monday morning- along with five members of his crew who died nearly 50 years ago.
“We felt very honored,” says Barbara Annechino in a phone interview from Virginia. “It made me very proud of my father.”
Christiano’s five children, seven grand children and four great grand children traveled to Arlington to say good bye. One of his grand daughters shared her personal photos to honor the man she has heard so much about, but until today has never met.
“I just went up to the casket and put my hands on it and just said ‘Hi grandpa,” she says. “It was surreal.”
Joseph Christiano was the navigator on a AC 47D fighter plane nicknamed “Spooky” when it went missing over Laos on Christmas Eve in 1965. It would take more than 40 years to identify the crash site and recover some remains including teeth and bone fragments.
The six crew members that served together and died together now share a single casket.
“It’s realizing that our dad was in that casket- that’s really emotional,” says Barbara Annechino. “To know he’s safe and on American soil and they brought him home.
The men were buried to the sounds of a 21 gun salute and taps- given full military honors. Christiano’s five grown children were given American flags. “The first thing I did when I got the flag was hug it and I said to myself ‘I want my daddy,” says Barbara Annechino. “I was very emotional.”
Personal photos taken by her daughter capture much of that intimacy. There is a missing in action bracelet left on the casket by a younger pilot who wore it in honor of the colonel he never met.
Danica Annechino also used her cell phone to capture video of the flyover of a “Spooky” fighter plane.
“It was sad and it was also more of a comfort feeling knowing that he’s home,” she says.
Her mother adds “I looked up and all I could picture was my dad on that plane. The whole thing was a very fitting tribute to these men.”