Name: Tommy Emerson Gist
Rank/Branch: United States Air Force/O3
Date of Birth: 29 October 1939
Home City of Record: Durant OK
Date of Loss: 18 May 1968
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 173155 North 1063714 East
Status (in 1973):
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: RF4C
Other Personnel in Incident: Terru Uyeyama, returnee
Refno: 1181

Source: Compiled by P.O.W. NETWORK from one or more of the following: raw
data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA
families, published sources, interviews and CACCF = Combined Action
Combat Casualty File.



[ap0518.94 05/25/94]
APn 18-May-94
Vietnam-Sharing Grief

Copyright 1994
The Associated Press.
AP Special Correspondent

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) -- Sara Gist Bernasconi looked at her watch and
remembered that chilling moment in time.

At 4 p.m., 26 years ago Wednesday, her husband, Air Force Capt. Tommy
Gist, was shot down and declared missing over North Vietnam.

At 4 p.m. on May 18, 1994, Mrs. Bernasconi stepped from a van and
into a dilapidated, cramped, two-room home in Hanoi.

She marked the solemn anniversary with a slight, gray-haired
Vietnamese woman and her family over a bowl of noodles, the only thing
they could afford.

Mrs. Bernasconi, 52, sat down to dinner with Tran Thi Tien, 55, whose
husband has been missing in action since 1970. They shared their sorrow
in a home not far from where U.S. bombs fell and American airmen were

"It's good that you come to visit Vietnam and you traveled a long
distance," Mrs. Tien told Mrs. Bernasconi through an interpreter.

"Today is the anniversary of the shoot-down of my husband," Mrs.
Bernasconi said. "How old were you when you met your husband?"

"I was married in 1960 in my brother's house in Hanoi. I was 20. My
husband went to the South in 1965. I was pregnant when my husband left."

"I have two sons about the same age as your sons."

"Your husband's remains found?"


"The same with my husband," Mrs. Tien continued. "I only know he died
in the South. We want to go find his remains but because of our economic
difficulties we cannot go. Your husband died in Dong Hoi."

"I don't know. He's missing."

"Too many losses for the families. We've suffered too many losses."

"Do you feel anger?"

"We feel very sorry and we miss him."

"We live a world apart and share so many of the same feelings."

Mrs. Bernasconi lives in Albuquerque, N.M., with her second husband,
Louis Bernasconi, a former prisoner of war. She is on a weeklong visit
to Vietnam with a delegation from the Vietnam Veterans of America, where
she serves as co-chairwoman of the national POW-MIA Committee.

One of Mrs. Tien's two sons reached into his wallet and presented
Mrs. Bernasconi with a small sapphire stone. Her gift to them was some
T-shirts inscribed Veterans Initiative.

Earlier in the day, American veterans handed over battlefield
souvenirs to the Vietnamese in an effort to help their families locate
their own loved ones lost in the war. Vietnamese veterans said they,
too, would launch a movement to help gather information for American

U.S. officials say there are still 2,233 Americans missing in action
from the war that ended in 1975. On the Vietnamese side, 300,000
soldiers are still unaccounted for.

For Mrs. Bernasconi and the veterans, the visit was a step toward
healing the anguish of Vietnam.

As she left Mrs. Tien's home, she asked if she could have a photo
taken with her and her two sons. Mrs. Bernasconi held Mrs. Tien's hand.

"Thank you for having us," she said.

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