The U.S. military has identified the remains of a New Jersey airman listed as missing in action since his plane went down in Laos during the Vietnam War, the Defense Department said today. Air Force Capt. Stephen A. Rusch, of West Amwell in Hunterdon County, was 28 when his F-4E Phantom II fighter-bomber crashed after taking enemy fire in March 1972. Immediate efforts to find the crash site, in Salavan Province, were unsuccessful. Air Force Capt. Stephen A. Rusch in an undated photo provided by the Rusch family. It was finally located in 1995, after an investigation by the Defense Department's Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command and the government of Laos. During two excavations in 2002 and 2003, the teams recovered a small amount of human remains. The remains - two teeth - were recently confirmed as those of Rusch, said his daughter, Air Force Col. Sharon Bannister, of Tampa, Fla. This afternoon, Bannister was shown the remains at a military lab in Honolulu. On Wednesday, she will accompany her father's flag-draped casket to Washington, D.C. Rusch is to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors on Friday. Bannister was three days away from her sixth birthday when she learned her father's plane had been shot down. Her younger sister, Rebecca, was just 2. "This is harder for me than I thought it was going to be," Bannister said in a telephone interview. "But it's great for our family. It brings us some closure, and it's just amazing the time and effort that's being put in to bring loved ones back to people's families after so many years." Bannister said her father's memory has played a role in her choice to make a career of the Air Force. A dentist, she commands the 6th Dental Squadron, headquartered at MacDill AFB in Florida. Rusch's parents, Cynthia and Hugo Rusch, who lived in West Amwell for many years, are deceased.