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Lawrence Getzfred, 57, grew up in Elgin, Neb., a town of about 800. Soon after he received his high school diploma in 1962, he enlisted in the Navy. Four of his six brothers did the same.
Getzfred was 19 years old and looking for a career that could pay for his schooling and take him around the country, said Betty Getzfred, his sister-in-law.
"It's a family thing," she said. "It was a way to get their education."
Over 38 years, Getzfred served in Hawaii, England, California and Washington, and was on active duty during the Vietnam and Persian Gulf wars.
Betty Getzfred said he had been stationed at the Pentagon for three years and had just started his second tour there. He worked as a captain in security, she said.
Getzfred and his wife, Pat, a Montessori school teacher, have two daughters. Just two months ago, they spent a week in Elgin visiting family.
For the last few days, Getzfred's family has been waiting for word.
"There is always that hope there, but it looks pretty grim," Betty Getzfred said. "We're holding on to that little light of hope."