DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – There are things worth fighting for: country, love and the truth. This story has all of the above; a local man killed in action during Vietnam and buried here at home. Or, was he? It is a question his loved ones have been working to answer for nearly 50 years and may now be closer than ever to learning the truth.

It was the summer of 1966 when Miamisburg, Ohio buried one of its first hometown boys killed in the Vietnam War. Mark V Dennis was 19 years old.

“Very kind. Very caring. Very intelligent.” That is how Elsie Johnson remembers her high school friend.

“I had plans to go to the prom and I put my dress on layaway, and when it came time I did not have the money to get my dress out,” recalled Johnson. “When Mark found this out, he paid the remainder on my dress so I was able to go to the prom.”

“He was just a good guy,” said Linda Erwin, Mark’s cousin.

Mark and 15 other men were on board a helicopter over South Vietnam when they took a barrage of enemy fire and crashed. Only three were said to have survived. The rest, including Mark, were reported Killed in Action.

“Of course when we found out we were all pretty devastated,” said Erwin. “I think there was a lot of shock to begin with because we all thought Mark would come back.”

This is where the story of Mark V Dennis takes a drastic turn. Just because something is written in stone, doesn’t make it so.

“We’re 100 percent certain that’s not Mark,” said Erwin about the body that was returned and buried in Miamisburg.

Last year, the family says they sent the one and only tooth returned with the badly burned remains, to a commercial laboratory in Pennsylvania for DNA forensic testing. The test report shows it’s not a match.

“I think because of the technology they had back then that they do what a lot of people do,” said Erwin. “It was process of elimination; we could identify these people, here’s another body over here, that has to be Mark.”

A 1970 Newsweek Magazine changed everything for the Dennis Family. Inside was a photo of an unidentified POW.

“And we all said, ‘that’s Mark!'” remembers Erwin.

The resemblance: uncanny. However, the Navy said the man in the photo wasn’t Mark. Still, it planted a seed of doubt which grew into a decades-long quest for answers. Mark’s brother, Jerry, lead the charge. He poured over the death certificate, questioned survivors, and exhumed the remains. The Navy maintained they were those of Mark V. Dennis.

Mark’s story appeared on a 1990 episode of Unsolved Mysteries. “And I give Jerry an awful lot of credit because he was like a bull dog; he did not want to give up on his little brother,” said Erwin.

Unfortunately, Mark’s parents and brother died without seeing the results of this latest DNA test. He has two surviving sisters who live out of state.

Finally, the family says the Department of Defense acknowledged that there was “compelling evidence” to reanalyze Mark’s case, and requested the remains be brought to Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska where there’s a satellite lab for the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, responsible for identifying remains of the missing dead from past wars. The family did so in March.

“I hope, and I don’t know how, but I hope they find who the remains belong to,” said Johnson. “As far as knowing where Mark is, or, we may never know that, but at least we know that the remains sent home were not his.”

“There could be someone else, another family out there just like us saying ‘We don’t know what happened,” said Erwin. “We’d like to put them to rest as well.”

Many have served. Too may have fallen, but some have never returned. Remember them. Those are the words inscribed at a war memorial in Miamisburg and echoing in the hearts of Mark’s family and friends.

“He may have been left behind, but we didn’t forget him,” said Erwin through tears. “We still love him. We still miss him. “

The family says they were told it could take up to a year before they hear anything from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. We will stay in touch with the family and let you know what happens.