INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — It was a homecoming 51 years in the making at the Indianapolis Airport Thursday evening.
U.S. Army First Lieutenant Alan Bardach, 24, was a graduate of Broad Ripple High School and Purdue University.
Family, soldiers and the Patriot Guard were there to greet him. One would have never guessed it was to honor someone who was killed more than a half-century ago.
For his brother Neil Bardach, it’s what made the event so meaningful.
“A moment not one of us would have missed,” said Bardach.
It was unexpected, yet also unforgettable.
Lt. Alan Bardach finally arrived home, his casket draped in the American flag.
“He was the older brother anyone wanted to have,” said Bardach, who was five years younger than Alan. “I mourn my brother all the time. I mourn him on his birthday every year. I mourn him on Memorial Day when they play “Taps” at the Speedway. He loved the Indianapolis 500. He wouldn’t miss a race…when they play “Taps,” the only person I can think of is Alan Bardach.”
Bardach said his brother was handsome and had lots of friends. But he was also a hard worker in his family’s jewelry business and a remarkable salesman. But the one thing he’s reminded of daily is how his brother was a sharp dresser who always “looked perfect.”
With Neil and other family members looking on, Alan returned to Indiana a half-century after he left on a Delta flight from Seattle around 6:30 p.m.
Lt. Alan Bardach was a 1961 graduate of Broad Ripple but also attended Shortridge. He graduated from Purdue in 1966.
He was killed in a helicopter crash on Jan. 8, 1968 in a remote area. Remains were recovered but couldn’t be identified at the time.
He was laid to rest in a group burial in Jefferson Barracks, Missouri until recently when the remains were given to the DPAA at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware where analysts were able to match his DNA with family members.
Bardach never thought this day would come.
“We always wondered,” he said. “Our family’s gratitude that this day would happen is without limit.”
Bardach saluted the casket right before it was placed in the hearse. He followed in his big brother’s footsteps to become an Army officer himself.
“I just wanted one last chance to salute the guy who set me in that direction.”
Honor and respect were given at every step from others, too.
Passengers on Alan’s flight were kept in their seats even during the brief ceremony on the tarmac. Other passengers stood and watched from the terminal.
“The fact they kept the passengers on that airplane when my brother was being honored, I never would have imagined that. The whole thing was stirring,” said Bardach.
The ceremony wasn’t done on the tarmac.
Dozens of Patriot Guard riders waited outside in two lines with flags as the hearse drove down the middle. Then they got on their motorcycles and escorted the hearse to Crown Hill Cemetery.
“They represent the best part of what America is. This is so beautiful and so heartwarming,” said Bardach.
A graveside service at Crown Hill Cemetery is scheduled for Saturday at 1 p.m.