Col. Noel Hoblit’s sons, Jerry and Fred, waited nearly 63 years to reunite their father with their mother.
On what would have been their parents’ 83rd wedding anniversary, the brothers finally had their wish when their father was buried next to their mother on May 21 at Arlington National Cemetery.
“This was a celebration of the day they were married, and it was our final (opportunity) to say goodbye to our father,” said retired Air Force Col. Jerry Hoblit, a former F-105 Thunderchief pilot. “We’ll always remember this day. This day has now superseded the day my father left us, as probably, second to our marriages, the most important day of our lives.”
Their father, Noel, a West Point graduate, along with more than 50 other service members, was killed on Nov. 22, 1952, when a C-124 Globemaster II he was traveling aboard crashed into Mount Garnet on Surprise Glacier in Alaska, on his way to Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska.
Soon after, a search party was able to land and determine there were no survivors but inclement weather prevented recovery operations.
It wasn’t until June 2012, when an Alaska National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk crew spotted the aircraft wreckage during a training mission, according to Air Force reports. Three days later, another Alaska Guard team landed at the site to photograph the area and found artifacts at the site that related to the wreckage of the C-124.
Later that month, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command and Joint Task Force team members conducted a recovery operation at the site. In 2013, additional artifacts were visible and JPAC members conducted further recovery operations.
Defense Department scientists from the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used forensic tools and circumstantial evidence to identify 17 service members, including Noel.
“This is a day that makes one proud of being an American,” said retired Air Force Lt. Col. Fred Hoblit, a former F-4 Phantom II pilot. “It makes you proud of what our country does to return its fallen members. I know how much it cost to go find my father and the other 54 souls that lost their lives. I don’t know any other country in the world that would do what they have done.”
Fred was only 6 years old and Jerry 11 when they lost their father, but both brothers still remember the day their mother was notified about their father’s death.
“When the chaplain came to tell my mother that the airplane had been lost, I remember her holding the door shut and not opening the door because she knew what this gentleman was having to do,” Fred said.
Despite losing their father at such a young age, Jerry said he still remembers the four-hour car trips he’d take with his father to go skiing. It was during these car rides that Noel would impart wisdom his son would hold onto his entire life.
“Everything he taught me in those car rides is still with me,” Jerry said. “He taught me, among other things, that human beings should be productive and leave the world a better place because of what you did when you were alive. “That was the core value that influenced him, that influenced me and influenced my brother.”
Although their father’s burial, which included full military honors, was emotional for their family, the brothers knew how happy it’d make their mother knowing their father was finally at rest beside her.
“Oh, I think she’d be tickled pink,” Fred said. “She’d say, ‘This is of the best.’ ‘This is of the best’ was one of her favorite sayings.”
(American Forces Press Service contributed to this article)