On February 5, 1969 TSgt Louis Clever and nine other American Servicemen were flying a classified mission over the notorious Ho Chi Minh Trail in Southern Laos. During the briefing that morning it was made clear this was going to be a dangerous mission. About an hour after departing Pleiku Air Base contact with the aircraft was lost.
For months later a Laotian Guerilla Team located the downed aircraft crash site. Due to the dangers of being at the site the team hastily recovered remains and departed. The United States Air Force announced shortly afterward to the families all of the crew had been lost and subsequently recovered. Due to the comingling of the remains there were no identifications. A funeral was held near St. Louis, MO and the families advised to ‘Get on with their lives’.
Standing over the gravesite of the recovered comingled remains Paul Clever (then six years old) did not feel his father was “home” and began the search to bring his father home.
In December 2012 Paul and Nita Clever made their second trip to Laos. Years of research had revealed the Air Force knew in 1969 all of the crew had not been accounted. A return to the crash site to achieve a “Maximum Recovery” was never made citing the dangers which would be incurred in such a recovery effort. This decision was made in spite of overwhelming forensic evidence American Servicemen had been left behind All attempts by Paul to reopen a government investigation into the crash were met with the sounds of closing doors. The only solution was for Paul to take personal ownership of the recovery and identification of his father and others on that fateful mission.
Driven by uncommon passion Paul and Nita searched for days through the jungle. Finally they were successful in locating the crash site. Metal scavengers had removed all meaningful signs of the aircraft. Still Paul and Nita were successful in recovering artifacts and human remains. DNA testing revealed the identification of three of the crew. One of those was Paul’s Father.
Shortly after their return from Laos the Air Force disinterred the comingled remains and through analysis and DNA testing was able to identify four more of the crew. Despite all of the renewed effort three members of this American Crew (which should have returned home) remain left behind.
On April 30, 2015 Paul and Nita Clever were awarded the Commander Public Service Award Medal (CPSA) by the Air Force for their efforts in bringing emotional closure to seven Air Force Families. The Presenting Officer noted the “audacity” of the Clever’s actions needed to bring about these results. The CPSA is the fifth highest award given by the Air Force to non-Air Force Employees.
On May 22, 2015 with Full Military Honors TSgt Louis Clever was laid to rest alongside his wife Deborah Clever at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery near St. Louis, MO. Paul and Nita Clever continue their efforts to bring emotional closure for American Families of POW/MIAs. On December 30, 2015 they completed their forth mission to Laos in support of this noble cause.
Clearly Paul Clever’s support of POW/MIA issues and Military Families are resolute. Sending Paul to Congress gives a new hope to those who have given the supreme sacrifice to our nation and remain emotional tormented due to the continued disappointing results of brining all recoverable Americans home. Your vote for Paul Clever is greatly appreciated.