SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — It's a homecoming more than five decades in the making.
"This is closure after 51 years," said David Green.
With the support of the community, Private First Class Thomas Green made his way back to his hometown, Ramona.
PFC Green landed at San Diego International Airport Thursday, greeted with military honors. He died while serving in the Vietnam War at just 19 years old.
"He was mild and energetic at the same time. He played in the high school band. He was full of life," he said.
The helicopter he was on went down while he was working on a humanitarian mission in October 1971.
"It was hard for my family. It was devastating for my folks. I saw a big change in them afterward," he said.
The family grieved his death without his body. A memorial was even created in his hometown to honor his service nearly 20 years after his death.
Then, last year, a lab in Honolulu had a piece of his bone. It was recovered during one of the army's many recovery missions in the south china sea. His brother said he had mixed emotions.
"Sadness but joy and certainly its closure," he said.