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Veterans Day: The uncle I never knew

Mladen Antonov / AFP - Getty Images

Clouds are reflected on the Vietnam War Memorial during Veterans Day ceremonies on Nov. 11, 2011, in Washington, D.C.

I’ve covered many stories in which I’ve met people who lost family members to war. Those moments have been some of the most difficult of my professional life. Each time it's happened, I’ve been amazed at their ability to function through the pain and share the story of their son, sister or father.

However, I’d never personally felt that deep pain and sense of loss until I visited the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C. a few years ago. That’s the day I found and touched my uncle’s name on "The Wall". That simple act connected me to a man who I have no memory of, and it made me feel surprisingly sad.

USAF file

Capt. Don R. Hood, right-front, and fellow Air Force officers in an A-1 training class at Hurlburt Field, Fla.

Captain Don Hood volunteered for his tour in Vietnam. He piloted A-1 Skyraiders with the 602nd Air Commando Squadron out of Bien Hoa Air Base. He flew over 100 combat missions and received four Air Medals.  According to the U.S. Air Force -- Captain Don Hood was killed when his aircraft collided in mid-air with another Skyraider on Oct. 2, 1965 while on a close air support mission in Binh Dinh province. He was 37-years-old.

I’ve drifted away from my extended family over the years, but today I’m thinking of the uncle I never knew, his seven children and all the people I’ve met who’ve lost family members to war.

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