Lynn Rakos, a senior archaeologist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers


Bill Cardoni

For Lynn Rakos, a senior archaeologist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District, a typical day might be making sure a new levee that the corps is building doesn’t damage a site once inhabited by Native Americans or determining if a new waterfront bulkhead in Newark will affect a historic railroad bridge abutment.

But in early 2017, Rakos NCAS’87, GSNB’95 volunteered to lead an unusual project: recovering human remains from a field in Laos where a U.S. Air Force F-4 fighter was shot down over the Southeast Asian nation in 1969, claiming the lives of two airmen. “I thought it would be an honorable mission that would also be a fascinating adventure,” Rakos says. The mission was coordinated by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), part of the U.S. Department of Defense.

For several weeks, she supervised a team of military personnel and local Laotian workers in excavating the site. The workers removed about eight inches of soil from a 1,500-square-foot plot and sifted it to reveal human remains and wreckage. The remains were sent to the DPAA forensic laboratory in Hawaii and then to the airmen’s families.

The excavation presented a risk of coming across an unexploded bomb, but “any time anything remotely resembling unexploded ordnance was found, our ordnance disposal technician was called in,” Rakos says.

The mission left Rakos deeply moved “not only by the sacrifice these airmen made, but also by knowing that the field team I had become so fond of could be put in harm’s way as part of their own service.”

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