Rest in peace, Captain Speicher, you’re an American hero…
WASHINGTON – Navy pilot Michael “Scott” Speicher was shot down over the Iraq desert on the first night of the Gulf War in 1991, and it was there he apparently was buried by Bedouins, the sand hiding him from the world’s mightiest military.
For nearly two decades, the family Speicher left behind, from outside Jacksonville, Fla., pushed the Defense Department to find out what had happened to him. On Sunday, the Pentagon disclosed that Marines had recovered Speicher’s bones and skeletal fragments — enough for a positive identification.
Shot down over west-central Iraq on a combat mission in his FA-18 Hornet on Jan. 17, 1991, Speicher was declared killed by the Pentagon hours later. Defense Secretary Dick Cheney went on television and announced the U.S. had suffered its first casualty of the war.
But 10 years later, the Navy changed his status to missing in action, citing an absence of evidence that Speicher had died. In October 2002, the Navy switched his status to “missing/captured,” although it has never said what evidence it had that he ever was in captivity. More reviews followed, without definitive answers.
His story never waned in Jacksonville. A large banner flying outside a firefighters’ credit union has a photo of him with the words “Free Scott Speicher.” At his church, a memorial was put up in his honor. The tennis complex at his alma mater, Florida State University, was named for him.