Remains of Navy Pilot
CAPT Scott Speicher Identified

LCDR Scott Speicher's Navy F/A-18 was shot down over Iraq on the opening night of the Gulf War, Operation Desert Storm, on January 17, 1991. "Spike" was the first U.S. casualty of Desert Storm. For the past 18 years, his family and friends, and shipmates, have wondered what happened to him.

Speicher was initially pronounced dead after his jet was shot down, but uncertainty over what happened to him, sparked by failure to locate any remains, has fueled years of speculation that he might have been taken captive.

After U.S. forces invaded Iraq in 2003, the initials "MSS" (Michael Scott Speicher) found in a prison cell led to hope that he might still be alive. His status has been changed several times from Killed in Action to Missing in Action, and eventually, Missing-Captured. After his disappearance, Speicher was promoted to Captain.

Finally, a breakthrough has come that will bring closure for Speicher's family. An Iraqi native notified U.S. Marines in early July, 2009, that he knew of two Iraqis who remembered an American jet crashing in the desert, and the pilot's remains being buried there. Acting on that information, Marines stationed in Al Anbar province went to the suspected crash location.

One of the Iraqi citizens stated that he was present when the pilot was found dead at the crash site by Bedouins and his remains buried. This would not be unusual, as Islamic custom requires remains to be buried within 24 hours. It likely indicates a sign of respect by those who found the body.

The Iraqis led Marines to the site, where they recovered fragmented remains over several days, including bones and multiple skeletal fragments. Positive identification was made by the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP) by comparing Speicher's dental records with the jawbone recovered at the site. The teeth are a match, both visually and radiographically.

The AFIP DNA Lab in Rockville, Maryland, is also conducting DNA tests on the remains recovered in Iraq and comparing them to DNA reference samples previously provided by family members. Results are expected in the next few days.

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus remarked, "Our thoughts and prayers are with Captain Speicher's family for the ultimate sacrifice he made for his country. I am also extremely grateful to all those who have worked so tirelessly over the last 18 years to bring Captain Speicher home."

Among those working tirelessly to determine the fate of Scott Speicher was his best friend, Buddy Harris. Harris was a fellow Hornet pilot who married Speicher's widow Joanne a year and a half after Speicher was declared KIA (killed in action). He has been a father to Scott's two children, who were 3 and 1 years old when their father's jet crashed, and are now college-age.

Harris and Joanne, whom he knew before she married Scott Speicher, also had two children of their own. Harris made a vow to Scott's family, and to Scott, that he would never give up looking for him. Harris met frequently with officials at the Pentagon and several times with President Bush concerning the status of the search for Scott Speicher.

Throughout the search, Harris has had to act both as investigator, attempting to learn as much as he can, and also as protector, to shield the family from the roller coaster of leads that don't pan out, which could create unrealistic hopes that Speicher might be alive.

Speicher's family issued a statement that the news was difficult to receive, but that they would always remember Scott's actions in combat, and the lengthy search to find him.

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