DENVER - For 37 years, Delouise Guerra never knew for certain what happened to the young man she called her baby brother, an 18-year-old Marine from Colorado who was missing and presumed dead after a helicopter crash on the other side of the world.
The Defense Department, however, told Guerra two months ago it had positively identified the remains of the man who disappeared so long ago, Pfc. James Jacques.
"Oh my God, it's a relief to know that they have found his final remains," Guerra said. "It's just an honor to bring him home."
The Colorado Marine was killed during the rescue of the crew of the S.S. Mayaguez, an American cargo ship seized by Cambodia's Khmer Rouge two days earlier on May 12, 1975.
Jacques will be buried with full military honors at Fort Logan National Cemetery in Denver on Tuesday on what would have been his 56th birthday.
Jacques was among hundreds of Marines and airmen sent to storm Koh Tang Island, about 60 miles off the coast of Cambodia, to rescue the Mayaguez crew. A helicopter carrying Jacques and 25 others crashed into the surf off Koh Tang Island amid unexpectedly heavy fire from Cambodian fighters.
Half the men on the helicopter were rescued, but the other 13 were declared missing, including Jacques.
All 39 crew Mayaguez members were released safely by Cambodia, but some 40 U.S. servicemen were killed, including U.S. Marine Pvt. Danny G. Marshall of Waverly.
Marshall's remains have not been recovered.
Marshall, Gary Hall and Joe Hargrove, a machine gun team, were overlooked during the Mayaguez Incident. The Marines were assigned to protect the flank during an evacuation of Koh Tang Island in the Gulf of Thailand off the Coast of Cambodia.
In the course of the evacuation, the three were overlooked and left behind. They were never seen again.
Marshall, an 18-year-old private, was declared dead by the military more than a year later, but his remains were never recovered.
In July 1976, the military changed his status from missing to died while missing. It is believed the three men were executed by the Khmer Rouge and their names are among the last on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
Jacques' dog tags were found in 1992, but his remains weren't positively identified until this year, said Air Force Maj. Carie Parker of the Defense Prisoner of War and Missing Personnel Office.
A Cambodian had turned over the remains to a U.S.-Cambodian search team in 2007. Newly available DNA technology allowed researchers to confirm the identity this year.
Guerra got the news in a letter from the Marines that arrived at her Denver home on Aug. 14. Her son Bob was with her.
"I started crying because I knew it was about my brother," she said. "We were crying, we jumped, we hollered."
Guerra, now 71, was 15 when Jacques was born.
"He was a very loving, very caring - well, he was my baby brother," she said. "He was just a really good person."
Jacques grew up in La Junta, a small town about 140 miles southeast of Denver. He joined the Marines in October 1974, shortly after his 18th birthday. His family was apprehensive but didn't try to dissuade him, Guerra said.
"It was something he wanted to do," Guerra said. "He wanted to go and serve his country and do his best."
He died just seven months after enlisting.
Twelve of the 13 missing servicemen are now confirmed to have died, Parker said. She said she could not discuss the 13th because an investigation is ongoing.
The Mayaguez operation is considered the last U.S. military engagement in Southeast Asia after the long and bloody war in Vietnam. The last U.S. combat troops left South Vietnam in 1973, and the South Vietnamese capital fell to North Vietnam on April 30, 1975, just two weeks before the Mayaguez engagement.
Thirty-seven years after his death, there is no closure for the Marshall family and few answers.
"There's no closure," said Danielle Jones, Marshall's niece. "It is kind of hard on everybody just because we don't know."
Kelton R. Turner is reported as the last American soldier killed in the Vietnam War. Kelton, an 18-year-old Marine, was killed in action two weeks after the evacuation of Saigon on May 15, 1975.
Others list Hall, Hargrove and Marshall as the last to die in Vietnam.
Marshall's body has never been recovered.
"There are so many conflicting stories on what happened to those three we will probably never know," Jones said. "It seems like every member of the Khmer Rouge, every one knows exactly where all three are buried, but they go to excavate the site and they are never there."
Jones and her son, Daniel, are both named in memory of Marshall.
Marshall came from a family of eight children. Born in 1957, he grew up in Waverly. While Marshall's birthday is listed as March 9, Jones said his mother always celebrated it March 10. He would have been 55 this weekend.
Jones said both of Danny's parents are gone; his mother died in 2008.
"His brothers and sister don't talk about it," Jones said. "My mom does, but she has been sick, so I have taken over dealing with this."
Marshall's family is hesitant to speak with the media. The family opted not to participate in last year's Vietnam Memorial Wall service at City Park. Jones was recovering from surgery and her mother had been sick. The rest of the family has tried to avoid the spotlight.
"My family has been hounded by anybody that thinks they can make a story out of anything," she said. "I've grown up with it. I have been hounded myself."
There have been books written about the Mayaguez Incident and Jones said the family is often approached when rumors surface of government officials going back to recover the bodies of missing soldiers.
Jones said the family is often misquoted in books, articles and stories about Marshall.
"At one point it was so crazy for a few days I had to unplug the house phone and barricade the door because of the reporter," Jones said.
Still, she lends her time to those seeking information about her uncle.
"I do everything I can," she said.
Jones said she gets emails from kids and students from around the country seeking information about Marshall and the Mayaguez Incident.
"They want to do book reports," she said. "I will ask them what they need."
Jones, a 2002 graduate of Williamstown High School, did a report on Marshall.
Jones hopes one day Marshall will be found, but after close to 40 years of waiting and hoping she's not optimistic.
Family members placed a bronze headstone in Marshall's memory in the family cemetery. The headstone was replaced a few years ago after it- along with a number of bronze flower holders-were stolen.
"Ideally, we would love to have him brought home," Jones said. "Is it something worth counting on? Probably not."