Apr. 23, 2019
Chairs of Honor Unveiled to Honor CWU Military Hero
A pair of chairs from the POW/MIA (Prisoner Of War/Missing In Action) “Chair of Honor” Program were unveiled at CWU to honor United States Air Force Major San DeWayne Francisco, a CWU alumnus.
The chairs were donated to CWU by the non-profit San D. Francisco Awareness Campaign, while the ceremony was organized and sponsored by the CWU Air Force ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) program. Each POW/MIA Chairs of Honor chair remains empty as a perpetual reminder that while the service members is not here, there is always a space for each of them. When the honor chairs are initially placed, a dedication ceremony is held.
“The ceremony was especially significant to us because the chair was given in dedication to Major Francisco, who was a member of our detachment,” said Lt. Col. Mark Meier, professor and chair of CWU aerospace studies and the university’s Air Force ROTC (AFROTC) Detachment 895 commanding officer. “It’s important that cadets—and all members of the CWU community—remember the sacrifices our predecessors have made in the defense of our country and to support the continued search for their remains until all our service members are returned home.”
Francisco, from Kennewick, graduated in 1966 from Central Washington State College. He also was a standout wrestler and was inducted into CWU Athletic Hall of Fame as a member of the 1963 football team.
Francisco died tragically two-years after graduating during the Vietnam War. A fighter pilot, he was shot down just six days before he was scheduled to return home, while flying a reconnaissance mission for which he volunteered to replace another aviator who had become ill.
Francisco’s remains still lie in a Vietnamese jungle. He’s the only Vietnam-era Kittitas County service member who has not yet been returned. During site excavation efforts the last two year, evidence was found consistent with where it’s believed Francisco’s remains are buried. Ankle deep water ended last year’s effort. Site excavation is expected to resume next month and continue into June.
“The recovery is taking longer than anticipated, but I feel the outcome will be good and we’ll be able to bring him home,” said Terri Francisco-Ferrell, Francisco’s sister, who attended the unveiling event. “San was truly a hero.”
Francisco-Ferrell helps direct the San D. Francisco Awareness Campaign, which was formed by colleagues, family, and friends to spearhead Francisco’s retrieval and return. It also provides educational assistance to the CWU Air Force ROTC Detachment 895 Book Tuition Program.
The Chair of Honor Program, a project of the POW/MIA-support organization Rolling Thunder, is designed to offer daily reminders in cities and towns across the country of the nation’s prisoners of war and those still missing In action that have not returned from their service.
One of the new chairs will remain in Lind Hall, the home to CWU’s award-winning Air Force and Army ROTC detachments, while the second will be in the CWU Veterans Center in Bouillon Hall.
“The veterans’ community here—on campus and throughout Kittitas County—and across the country for that matter often have events that honor POWs and MIAs, including ‘missing man’ table ceremonies,” said Ruben Cardenas, Veterans Center director. “We’re honored to now have an official chair that we can—and will—use at our events like that to recognize San and his fellow POWs and MIAs.”
The CWU Brooks Library Archives and Special Collections is also now coordinating with the CWU Air Force ROTC detachment on digitizing material related to Francisco’s story. That collection will comprise part of a public display, which will soon be made available.
Media contact: Mitchell Vandeman, CWU Public Affairs, (360) 710-5987, email@example.com
Photos (below): Francisco in fighter cockpit. Excavation area in Vietnam where it's believed the remains may be located (courtesy of the San D. Francisco Awareness Campaign)