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Fallen Air Force captain honored with flyover

Barbara Bosy of Bethpage kisses the flag-draped coffin

Barbara Bosy of Bethpage kisses the flag-draped coffin of her brother, Air Force Capt. Robert J. Edgar, who was shot down over Laos in 1968. (Sept. 16, 2009) Photo Credit: Newsday/Ken Sawchuk

A flyover Thursday at a Pinelawn cemetery served as a final salute to an Air Force navigator killed in Vietnam more than 40 years ago.

Capt. Robert J. Edgar was buried with full military honors at Long Island National Cemetery in Pinelawn, 41 years after his plane crashed into a Laotian mountainside.

An Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft from McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey flew over the cemetery at 2 p.m. in tribute to Edgar, whose remains were identified with the help of a sister he never knew.

The aircraft flew over the cemetery at 2,000 feet above ground level. The flyover had been approved by Federal Aviation Administration officials, the Air Force said in a news release.

Edgar was born in Brooklyn, then adopted by a Florida couple.

He was the navigator of an RF-4C Phantom when the reconnaissance jet crashed into a Laotian mountainside while descending from cloud cover on Feb. 5, 1968. Edgar was 24.

A rescue team could not find the crash site, and Edgar and his pilot, William T. Potter, were declared missing in action.

A 1994 thaw in diplomatic relations with Laos allowed a U.S. military forensic team to begin a series of ground searches, based on tips from villagers in the mountainous area.

Although pieces of the doomed jet were found in 1996, 11 years of searching passed before forensic investigators with the military's Joint Prisoners of War, Missing in Action Accounting Command, were able to fully excavate the site.

Even then, they could not positively identify Edgar's remains. Because Edgar was adopted as a child, tracing a blood relative for a DNA match was all the more difficult.

Investigators eventually located Edgar's biological sister, Barbara Bosy, 53, of Bethpage.

She told Newsday she never knew what had become of Edgar until military officials contacted her about the possibility that her brother's remains had been found in Laos. A cheek-swab genetic test led to a match of their mitochondrial DNA.

"They found him and he's coming home," Bosy said. "He can rest in peace in the country he served."

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