Family welcomes fallen Marine home, 37 years after his death in Cambodia

DENVER – A Colorado family welcomes home a fallen Marine,  37 years after he was listed as Missing In Action in Cambodia.

In May of 1975, President Gerald Ford sent military force to Cambodia, where he claimed the Khmer Rouge had captured the 40-man crew of the SS Mayaguez merchant ship.

The goal of the effort, which happened less than two weeks following the fall of Saigon, was to free the crewmen.

One of the helicopters had 27 Marines aboard. The chopper was hit by ground and swift boat fire and crashed with debris landing both in and out of the water.

In the attack, 14 were killed –13 were injured. While the government was able to find closure for all but four of the Marines, James Jacques of Denver was one of the four.

 “We have been waiting for years to find out what really happened to Jim,” said his sister, Delouise Gurra, who was on the tarmac at DIA Monday for an American Airlines plane carrying his remains.

“In 1995, we were told a Cambodian man who had been carrying around Jimmy’s dog tag for a number of years, had given it to U.S. officials. That gave us renewed hope. Then when there was a DNA match, we thanked God for closure.”

 At the tearful tarmac reunion, the Patriot Guard, Denver Police Color Guard, and a detachment of Marine Corps personnel welcomed home their fallen comrade. With the motto, we never leave one of own behind, this was tough but honorable duty for the detail.

Once the family took the coffin to Newcomer Funeral Home, a display of James’s life was set up for the world to see.

From baby pictures to those in uniform, the boy from the Baker Neighborhood was welcomed home by friends and family.

He will be put to rest at Fort Logan National Cemetery Tuesday. There will also be a ceremony for James and others who died as a result of the raid in a few weeks at Arlington National Cemetery. In the end, the raid wasn’t even needed, because the Khmer Rouge had already released the crewmen before the rescue attempt began. 

In an odd twist of fate, James will be laid to rest on what would have been his 56th birthday.

Private First Class James Jacques, a Denver hero, welcome home.