John Wayne Guinn, a 69-year-old Vietnam War veteran, was laid to rest last Monday morning at the Mountain Home National Cemetery.
But it was not his first funeral.
A case of mistaken identity led to a Carter County funeral and even burial for the soldier more than 45 years ago.
Guinn, who died Thanksgiving Day, had been mistakenly identified by the Army in November 1967 as having been killed by mortar fire on a Vietnam battlefield.
The body believed to be Guinn’s was returned to Elizabethton, and on Nov. 21, 1967, his mother and six siblings as well as a host of family members and friends attended a funeral for Guinn at Pleasant Beach Baptist Church. That same day, the body was buried at Happy Valley Memorial Park.
Two days later, on Thanksgiving morning, Guinn’s mother was shocked when she received a phone call from John Wayne in Vietnam, telling her that he was on his way home. According to a Star newspaper article, Guinn was unaware of the “mixup,” and did not know why he was abruptly being sent home. He simply told her that he did not know what was going on, but the Army was sending him home and he would be arriving at Tri-Cities Airport the next day.
Blanche Guinn, when she talked with her son, did not tell him that two days earlier she had buried a soldier that she believed was him.
U.S. Rep. Jimmy Quillen drove Mrs. Guinn to the airport the day after Thanksgiving to greet her son upon his arrival. When John Wayne walked off the plane and into his mother’s arms, she fainted. Approximately 300 family members and friends were on hand at the airport to greet Guinn when he arrived.