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Repatriated pilot laid to rest

By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Oct. 25, 2002) -- An Air Force fighter pilot missing in action during the Vietnam War was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery on Oct. 25.

Capt. Jefferson S. Dotson of Pound, Va., served during the Vietnam War with the 416th Tactical Fighter Squadron from Tuy Hoa Air Base, Republic of South Vietnam.

Dotson graduated from the Virginia Military Institute in 1966. He entered the Air Force in 1967 and deployed to South Vietnam the following year.

Early Aug. 9, 1969, then-1st Lt. Dotson and fellow pilot Capt. Lee Gourley embarked on a forward air control mission in an F-100F Super Sabre to collect intelligence information along the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

Around 9:30 a.m., Gourley radioed in the aircraft's position, the two pilots' last contact with their unit. Some two hours later, their aircraft was declared missing. Search and rescue operations were conducted for the next two days without success.

Dotson was officially declared dead by the Air Force on April 26, 1976. He had been missing in action for nearly seven years and would have been 31 years old.

In December 2001, the U.S. government returned what were believed to be the remains of Dotson and Goruley. DNA tests confirmed those beliefs.

Dotson is survived by his mother, Margery Lee Dotson; his daughter, Crista Renee Dotson Plikat; his two sisters, Barbara Elkins and Sheila Cantrell; his brother, Otis Edward Dotson; and his former wife, Mary Ann Hollyfield Dotson Goetzel.