ARCADIA, Fla. - A Vietnam veteran's remains are finally brought home to Arcadia. For nearly four decades, he was listed as M.I.A. and tonight, his family is grateful to finally have their hero back where he belongs.
Sgt. James Alley was a combat photographer aboard "Jolly Green 67," a helicopter on the longest search-and-rescue mission in air force history. You may have even seen the movie about the mission, "BAT-21." The U.S. Air Force never recovered his remains after his helicopter was shot down in Vietnam. That is, until 2 months ago.
The rumble of 100 motorcycles welcomed Sgt. James Alley back home. "It gives you that warm feeling in your heart that you are bringing home one of your brothers," Patriot Guard Rider Rick Berner said.
"In the perils, and what the country went through at the end of the war, at least we can put to rest a true patriot in peace and harmony and love," Rider Lani Daniels said.
Back in 1972, Sgt. Alley was on a mission to rescue a stranded crew member in enemy territory when his helicopter was shot down. His younger brother Tim was born a year after and grew up hearing stories about his courageous big brother. Sgt. Alley's remains were finally found in March. "I couldn't wait. It was like waiting for Christmas. You know, finally getting to meet my brother and bring him home," Tim Alley said.
Today, the Patriot Guard Riders gave Alley the warm welcome home he never received, riding up I-75, with the Charlotte County Sheriff's helicopter hovering overhead, and deputies saluting from below. "It's what we can do to show respect for the family. They gave the ultimate sacrifice for the country," Lt. Brian Harrison said.
Once in Arcadia, riders stepped off their bikes to salute and pay respect to an American hero. "It's an honor to bring this man home from almost four decades and you know, the family needs healing, and the community," rider Erl Julien said.
"Welcome home bro, welcome home," Vietnam veteran Dave Henderson said.
Sgt. Alley's funeral is tomorrow at Oak Ridge Cemetery in Arcadia, with full military honors and a flyover.