But the lively young man in the picture has been dead for 22 years, his helicopter shot down on Easter Sunday 1972 in Vietnam. And after years of wondering and waiting, his father and his sister finally laid him to rest in the Arlington National Cemetery on Saturday.
His mother, Ruth, died in January of 1993, without ever knowing her son's fate.
"It was always on her mind," Marvin Paschall said. "We'd be sitting here just talking, and she'd say 'I wonder ...' "
They'd believed for a long time that Ron was dead, he said.
The crash occurred just six days before he was to return home. He sent a letter to his girlfriend in Edmonds that day, saying he'd be home in a week. The same day she got the letter, Army officers visited his parents to say he'd disappeared.
"They said the helicopter crashed, but didn't catch fire," Paschall said. "We thought he was a prisoner, and he'd come home when the war was over."
But the war ended and Ron didn't come home.
Later, the Paschalls heard from the door gunner who had ridden with Ron when he crashed.
"He sat right here and told us, word for word, what happened," Paschall said. "He said Ron was out of the helicopter, but another guy was stuck inside. Ron went back in after him, and the enemy started firing at the helicopter. It went up in a ball of fire. The door gunner said it was so hot it took his breath away."
The Army called Mr. Paschall a few months ago to say they had found his son's remains. Army officials stayed in close touch with the family, and an officer flew out to meet with Paschall and his daughter, Janet Peyton, to discuss how they were able to identify the remains. They made plans for the funeral service for
Ron Paschall and two other soldiers who died with him.
Mr. Paschall and Janet and David Peyton flew to Washington, DC. Thursday night. Army officials met them and put them up at the Executive Suites Inn in Arlington, Va.
The funeral service was held Saturday.
"That church was packed full," Marvin Paschall said. "After it was over, we came outside and there was a band playing over here and another band playing on the other side. They set their caskets up on a big wagon, pulled by six white horses.
"We came right behind them, then an honor guard carrying their guns, and the band followed."
After the bodies were interred, the honor guard fired a 21−gun salute, he said.
At the funeral, they met the families of the other young men who had been killed, and men, now older, who served with Ron Paschall in Vietnam.
"One of them told me he remembered playing with my brother," Janet Peyton said. "They'd pretend they were like kids again, and they'd play on the roofs of the Quonset huts, tossing pop cans filled with rocks at each other."
"They really were just kids," her husband, David Peyton, said.
Seeing his friends grown older, with hairlines starting to recede, left Janet Peyton with questions. "I wonder what he'd be like now."
Marvin Paschall fingered the tracing he'd made of his son's name on the wall, the memorial to the dead of the Vietnam War. Ron's medals covered the small dining room table in the red wood−frame house he grew up in.
"Here's the Purple Heart. You know that one," Paschall said. "This is a special medal, made for those who were missing in the war. Here's a Bronze Star."
Paschall misses his wife, his sweetheart for 49 years. But he said it would have been hard for her to go through the last few months.
"I wouldn't want her to know that her son laid out in the jungle for 22 years, under the hot sun," he said. "She loved her children so very much."
Everyone wants to know how he feels now that his long wait is over, he said. "It's hard to say, after you've waited and waited for so long," he said.
He paused for a moment.
"I'd a damn sight rather have it be this way than for him to have been a prisoner all these years. It's a relief to really know that he wasn't a prisoner, that he has been found, and to really know what happened."
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