SPOKANE, Wash. –
Serving as a Casualty Assistance Officer (CAO) is not an additional duty many volunteer to perform, as it comes with long hours and lengthy paperwork, but helping families bring fallen loved ones home is also one of the most rewarding things a Soldier can experience.
Serving on his first Casualty Assistance mission, Maj. Travis Clark, a Personnel Manager for the 385th Field Hospital on Fairchild Air Base, Wash., was assigned to the repatriation mission of 2nd Lt. Eugene Shauvin, a World War II pilot of a C-47 Skytrain aircraft that was shot down over Belgium, en route to the Netherlands to drop 11 Pathfinder paratroopers ahead of Operation Market Garden. By October 1951, all personnel from Shauvin’s aircraft had been identified and accounted for except for Shauvin. He was declared non-recoverable on Oct. 29. The U.S. Army Central Identification Laboratory, Hawaii (CILHI) sent an investigation team in 2002 but found only the cockpit. After reconsideration to not excavate further, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) fully excavated the site in 2021 and found human remains.
After confirmed identification of Shauvin through mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), Y chromosome DNA (Y-STR), and autosomal DNA (auSTR) analysis, Shauvin’s daughter, Linda Chauvin, who changed the spelling of her last name to her father’s original spelling, then began working to bring her father home to Spokane.
The 385th Field Hospital was selected for the Casualty Assistance mission due to its proximity to Spokane, and Clark, who initially completed CAO training in 2015, volunteered for the duty. Clark considered himself a “cog in the wheel in coordinating what the Army can do and balancing what the family wanted.” Clark coordinated between Chauvin, the Casualty Assistance Office at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., and the Past Conflict Repatriations Branch (PCRB) at Human Resources Command in Fort Knox, Ky., assisting in paperwork, relaying messages, answering questions, and connecting people.
The Army’s original plan to transport Shauvin to the Seattle-Tacoma Intl. Airport for planeside honors due to available flights from the DPAA Lab in Omaha, Neb., did not meet Chauvin’s intentions, as she had arranged for a ceremony in Spokane, nearly five hours away. A funeral home in Spokane then volunteered to transport Shauvin from Seattle to Spokane and conduct hearse-side honors. However, through a ‘spider web of connections,’ Chauvin and Clark ultimately arranged for planeside honors in Spokane on July16.
“It’s a balance…what I can do, what I am authorized to do,” explained Clark. “This could potentially impact the Next of Kin in a negative way…it’s a testament to not stop trying. My responsibility to her is to make sure [she] is taken care of as far as the Army is concerned.”
The funeral for Shauvin was held July 23 with burial at the Holy Cross Cemetery in Spokane. Attendees included members of the excavation team, those who became Chauvin’s dear friends in Belgium due to excavation efforts, and representatives from Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ office.
In an almost 20-year process that Chauvin has been intimately involved with, Clark said, “It was an honor to be a part of the ceremony…bringing a brother home….the magnitude to bring home a WWII Soldier is quite emotional.”
Note: Previous information written on the recovery and repatriation of 2nd Lt. Shauvin include:
“DPAA completes recovery operations in Belgium,” June 7, 2021. https://www.dpaa.mil/News-Stories/Recent-News-Stories/Article/2648849/dpaa-completes-recovery-operations-in-belgium/
“Fulfilling Our Nation’s Promise - Pilot Accounted For From World War II,” Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency Press Release, Mar. 22, 2022. https://www.dpaa.mil/News-Stories/News-Releases/PressReleaseArticleView/Article/2953304/pilot-accounted-for-from-world-war-ii-shauvin-e/
Shauvin’s personnel profile can be viewed at the DPAA website: https://dpaa-mil.sites.crmforce.mil/dpaaProfile?id=a0Jt0000000XdkaEAC