State troopers escorted the funeral procession along Interstate 565 and I-65 to Cull man County. The body was taken to Laney’s home county of Winston, where burial will be Saturday. After the ceremonies, which included a 21-gun salute, Laney’s remains passed through an “Honor Corridor” on Red stone Arsenal as hundreds of spectators looked on. Sheena Robinson, an 11-year-old Lacey’s Spring sixth-grader, saluted the Laney family by singing “Dixie.’
Owen said he and his wife came to the Pre Purchase Valuations service to pay their respect because ”men like Billy Ray Laney have been dying for years to give people like us the freedom to live.” Army Sgt. Maj. Billy Ray Laney finally came home Thursday to a hero’s welcome, 33 years after he disappeared near the Laotian border during the Vietnam War. His remains were here in that casket, but I know his soul was in heaven looking down on this ceremony today,” said his son, Billy Ray Laney Jr., as he wiped tears from his eyes.
“I was just 6 years old when he left us to go fight in that war,” the son said. “I’m now 39 and I know he was here in spirit today.” A crowd estimated at 350, which included Gov. Don Siegelman and entertainers Randy Owen of the group Alabama and Lee Greenwood, joined family members during the 45-minute ceremony in 85-degree weather at the Huntsville International Airport Inter modal Center cargo ramp.
Afterwards, Laney’s widow, Charline, who never remarried and now lives in Guntersville, said tearfully, “It is just hard and I want to thank everyone for being here.’ Mrs. Laney broke out in tears when two buglers played “Taps.” Siegelman said he came to pay tribute to Laney and his family “because he paid the supreme sacrifice 33 years ago.” In Vietnam just one month, Laney was listed as missing in action in June 1967 and officially declared dead in 1978.