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Man buries dad lost in WWII
Lakewood resident receives comfort from military ritual

By Katy Marquardt , Scripps Howard News Service

WASHINGTON -- More than a half-century after his father's plane vanished over the jungles of Papua New Guinea, Lakewood resident Michael Kindig Osborn saw him laid to rest Tuesday with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.
The service brought closure to a mystery that has consumed Osborn since he was a child. The Lakewood resident, now 60, was only 3 years old when Maj. Earl Robert Kindig disappeared from a small observation plane in February 1944. He was directing artillery fire on Japanese troops.

The Army's Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii identified Kindig's remains last year through DNA matching after a Philadelphia contractor discovered the plane and remains in a riverbed about 18 miles southeast of Saidor, New Guinea.

"It's almost become a cliche now, the phrase 'closing the circle,' but that's exactly what it amounts to," Osborn said.

Rumors followed Kindig's disappearance.

"The one that was most tantalizing was when his executive officer's wife called my mother and said 'How thrilled you must be that Earl's coming home,' " he said.

Osborn recalls a hazy memory of a Western Union telegraph that sent word of his father's casualty.

"My mother knew he'd perished, but his mother, on the other hand, went to her death convinced that he was still alive and wandering around the jungle, which is a special kind of torment," he said.

Osborn's search for his father led him to Fred Hagen, who had found parts of a light observation plane in 1998 near where Kindig disappeared.

In February 2000, an Army reconnaissance team unearthed remains of two humans and a number of artifacts, including Kindig's rank insignia, Zippo lighters and bone fragments that included a nearly intact human leg bone. The Army lab identified Kindig and the airplane's pilot.

Osborn, who edits Colorado's AFL-CIO newspaper, attended the funeral with his sons and other family members. His mother died in 1987.

With his father's rank insignia pinned to his lapel, Osborn read a letter at the funeral that his father had written to him on his first birthday, filled with advice and optimism about his life ahead.

"What's most bittersweet are the conditions we're all operating under now -- it's disappointing that the world he envisioned for his son and grandchildren has yet to be achieved," Osborn said.

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