The 39th annual Special Operations Association Reunion was held earlier this week in Las Vegas. Among those in attendance were (as shown in the photo above), from left: World War II OSS officer Col. (R) Sully H. De Fontaine; Ann Mills-Griffiths, chairman of the Board of Directors for the National League of POW/MIA Families; and World War II OSS officer MG (R) John K. Singlaub. The OSS officers are two of the last six surviving OSS men.
De Fontaine joined the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in 1943, parachuted behind enemy lines into France to participate in the liberation of France from Nazi occupation forces. He went on to serve as a Green Beret who specialized in Soviet intelligence, escape and evasion tactics, and counter-guerilla warfare. He ran special operations in the Congo and Algeria, and fought under the aegis of the Military Assistance Command Vietnam–Studies and Observations Group (MACV-SOG) during the eight-year secret war in Vietnam.
Singlaub served more than 40 years in the Army. Joining the OSS, he worked with “Wild Bill” Donovan, the first OSS director. He served in unconventional warfare, espionage, covert missions, and saw frontline action in World War II, the Chinese Revolution, the Korean War. He served two years as chief of SOG, the director of all SOG operations in Vietnam, and later in Central America. After fighting German forces in occupied France during WWII, he transferred to Indochina, where OSS officers fought Japanese occupation forces. During the Korean War, he served in special operations behind enemy lines. He generated national attention after an encounter with President Jimmy Carter where he publicly opposed the withdrawal of U.S. troops from South Korea. Later, he supported the Contras in Nicaragua who were fighting communists in the jungles of Central America.
This distinguished trio of patriots were photographed shortly after Mills-Griffiths spoke to the SOA membership about the history of U.S. efforts to find, identify, and return the remains of the 1,626 remaining U.S. service members still listed as “Missing In Action” in Southeast Asia, including Green Berets and support aviation units who fought and died in Laos, Cambodia, and N. Vietnam during the eight-year secret war. Mills-Griffiths also told SOA members that she applauds the recent effort that brought together three federal agencies under one newly-formed federal agency, the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Accounting Agency (DPAA), headed by recently retired LTGMichael Linnington.
SOA President Rick Estes told the SOA membership of the organization’s commitment through its POW/MIA Committee to work with DPAA officials in support of its mission while announcing new initiatives for an increased presence at future DPAA information updates and, where possible, to provide information on locations of remains in Southeast Asia to DPAA officials. In unique cases, SOA members have traveled with DPAA field teams in an effort to locate and return the remains of service members to the U.S.
The Special Operations Association was formed 39 years ago by Green Berets who fought in the SOG secret war during the Vietnam War. Today’s SOA includes among its members SOF forces from Navy SEALs, Marine Corps Force Reconnaissance and MARSOC Raider Regiment, Air Force pararescuemen, and the many Army, Marine, and Air Force aviation units who flew in support of SOG missions.
About the Author
John Stryker Meyer Born Jan. 19, 1946, John Stryker Meyer entered the Army Dec. 1, 1966. He completed basic training at Ft. Dix, N.J., advanced infantry training at Ft. Gordon, Ga., jump school at Ft. Benning, Ga., and graduated from the Special Forces Qualification Course in Dec. 1967. He arrived at FOB 1 Phu Bai in May 1968, where he joined Spike Team Idaho, which transferred to Command & Control North, CCN in Da Nang, January 1969. He remained on ST Idaho to the end of his tour of duty in late April, returned to the U.S. and was assigned to E Company in the 10th Special Forces Group at Ft. Devens, Mass. until October 1969, when he rejoined RT Idaho at CCN.
The VFW is challenging YOU to get involved this #VeteransDay by participating in the VFW’s Operation Appreciation campaign. Show your appreciation to veterans with a gesture of kindness, take a picture or video of your “thanks” in action and post it to your social media accounts. Be sure to use #ithankedavet and #yourturn! https://www.facebook.com/events/913725238702166/
Savannah Vietnam War veterans to be honored by state at Hunter Army Airfield
Posted: October 6, 2015 – 1:01pm | Updated: October 7, 2015 – 6:48am
Allen Harvey, the president of Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 671, wants Vietnam War veterans to contact him by Oct. 9 if they want to be included in a recognition ceremony later this month at Hunter Army Airfield. (Dash Coleman/Savannah Morning News)
By Dash Coleman
For years, Allen Harvey wouldn’t step foot on a military installation.
“I didn’t want any part of them,” said Harvey, a 69-year-old Marine Corps veteran who fought in the Vietnam War. “They didn’t want me, so I just stayed off of them. Basically, a lot of times, I never even announced that I was a Vietnam veteran.”
He’s one of scores who live in the Savannah area. And on Oct. 30, the state will formally recognize their service in a ceremony at Hunter Army Airfield. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon and the end of a war whose U.S. veterans were treated with disdain upon their return.
Harvey, who was wounded during his tours in Vietnam, said people spat at him and he initially wasn’t invited to join Veterans of Foreign Wars or the American Legion.
He’s now the president of the Savannah chapter of Vietnam Veterans of America, which tries to ensure no other service member is treated as they were.
“We were treated badly by the government, badly by the citizens and badly by our own brothers,” Harvey said. “That’s why one generation will never abandon another one.”
Programs by the Department of Defense to recognize the Vietnam War’s anniversaries — 50 years since the war started and 40 since it ended — have been underway recently. In June, a “welcome home” ceremony was held at Fort Stewart. More than 500 Vietnam War veterans marched across Cottrell Field into the welcoming arms of family members and friends — the same treatment given to 3rd Infantry Division soldiers returning from deployment since 2003.
The Oct. 30 ceremony is in a similar vein but at the state level. Since March, the Georgia Department of Veterans Service and the governor’s office have been awarding certificates of honor to Vietnam War-era veterans.
As of Sept. 29, more than 4,200 certificates had been issued.
“We have 234,000 Vietnam veterans that live within the borders of the state,” said Brian Zeringue, events and projects manager for the state Veterans Service office. “… They didn’t receive the recognition that other war veterans have received upon their return, and it’s a way for the state to show their gratitude for their service. It’s something simple, yet a sign of gratitude.”
Those who attend the ceremony Oct. 30 will receive a certificate signed by the governor as well as a lapel pin. Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp and state Veterans Service Commissioner Mike Roby will be present.
Since it’s a state event and not a federal one, the ceremony will be held at the Georgia Army National Guard hangar on Hunter.
“It’s a big deal,” said Lt. Col. Chris Buck, who commands the unit at the Guard’s Army Aviation Support Facility No. 3.
Buck said what Vietnam War veterans went through changed the way troops are treated. Even when there’s negative perception by the public on combat, the way individual service members are treated is different.
“When it comes to showing respect for soldiers serving, I think that is something that unites most Americans,” Buck said. “And that is a legacy of Vietnam veterans.”
Harvey is helping coordinate the event. His chapter of Vietnam Veterans of America has more than 120 members, but he suspects “tons” more live in the Savannah area. Two American Legion posts, a VFW post and a local Marine Corps League chapter are also involved.
While the ceremony isn’t until the end of the month, Harvey said he needs information from veterans who would like to be recognized no later than Friday.
Family members of deceased Vietnam War-era veterans can receive a certificate on their behalf.
“It’s a very meaningful thing,” Harvey said. “We were never welcomed home, and now we’re getting it, finally.”
If you are a Vietnam War-era veteran (or a family member of one) who would like to receive a certificate of honor from the state Oct. 30, contact Allen Harvey no later than Friday. Allen, president of Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 671, can be reached at 912-210-9118 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The ceremony will be held at 11 a.m. Oct. 30 in Army Aviation Support Facility No. 3. of the Georgia Army National Guard on Hunter Army Airfield. In attendance will be Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp and state Department of Veterans Service Commissioner Mike Roby. A recorded message by Gov. Nathan Deal will be played.
For more information on the state’s efforts and Georgia’s veteran population, go to veterans.georgia.gov/vietnam.
On Sept 29th, League Chairman of the Board AMG met with Vietnam’s Vice Minister of National Defense Sr. LTG Nguyen Chi Vinh. This meeting was expressly arranged by the Chairman to include the major national veteran organizations, specifically VFW Ex Director Bob Wallace, Legion Chairman, National Security Commission, Mike Schlee, and VVA Ex Director Rick Weidman. The League is grateful for the support these three organizations provide as we are others who could not be with us on short notice. The League and these three organizational leaders all expressed sincere appreciation to Minister Vinh for the significantly improved and expanded cooperation now taking place and his assurance that there are no restrictions on Vietnam’s humanitarian cooperation on the accounting mission.
Change in leadership at DPAA West
The photos below were taken at the 09/22/15 “ceremony” at the new DPAA Headquarters at Jt. Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. The purpose was the departure of Maj Gen Kelly McKeague, USAF, from his position as DPAA Deputy Director and the assumption of that position by BG Mark Spindler, USA. Generals McKeague and Spindler just returned from visits to Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia during which consultations were held in Vientiane and Technical Talks were held in Hanoi. The two officers, accompanied by Policy, Plans and Strategy Deputy Director Jennifer Nasarenko, also flew into Phnom Penh for calls at the US Embassy and to meet with Secretary of State for the Ministry of Interior Sieng Lapresse.
Generals McKeague, Linnington (Ret.), and Spindler
The dedication ceremony for the
Senator Daniel K. Inouye Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency Center of Excellence
July 27, 2015
Ann Mills-Griffiths attended the Tarawa Repatriation Ceremony in Hawaii. 36 unidentified Marines’ remains were returned in the very moving, closed ceremony at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Sunday, July 26, 2015, in Honolulu. A Florida-based private organization called History Flight recovered the remains from the remote Pacific atoll of Tarawa.
The thirty-six caskets holding the remains of U.S. Marines killed in the 1943 Battle of Tarawa were returned from battlefield interment last weekend. The men, killed in the epic 76-hour Battle of Tarawa on the heavily defended island of Betio were recovered recently through the efforts of non-profits and the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.
The Marines, each in a flag shrouded casket, were transferred to a contingent from the 3rd Marine Regiment during a repatriation ceremony in Tarawa, Kiribati on Saturday. Reverently loaded onto a Marine KC-130J Hercules, they were flown to their home country for the first time in more than 70 years.
Upon arrival at aboard Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, they were further honored as they were unloaded for identification and final burial.
Photo credit: AMG
President Barack Obama greets Pam Cain in the Blue Room during a Memorial Day breakfast at the White House, May 25, 2015. Also attending the breakfast were League Chairman, Ann Mills-Griffiths, Board Member Karoni Forrester, and Assistant Region IV Coordinator Betty Bartels Murphy.
July 10, 2015
Board Member Cindy Stonebraker, pictured here with her son and Kentucky Governor Beshear and also with Gen. Dan Cherry, will be speaking at the candlelight service at 9:00 this evening at the Traveling Tribute Wall, Kentucky Horse Park.
For Immediate Release
May 12, 2015
NASCAR DRIVER JENNIFER JO COBB & WREATHS ACROSS AMERICA ARE “DRIVEN2HONOR” POW-MIA’S
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Mooresville, NC: For six very special race dates this year, Jennifer Jo Cobb, NASCAR Camping World Truck Driver of the #10 Driven2Honor team will join forces with Wreaths Across America and the trucking industry to recognize our veterans by carrying the POW-MIA banner on the hood of her race truck at races in Charlotte, Dover, Gateway, Kentucky, Chicago and Phoenix.
These special race dates recognize the six days each year, on a national level, in which the POW-MIA Flag is flown at all government and military installations with the passage of Section 1082 of the 1998 Defense Authorization Act during the first term of the 105th Congress. In addition, Cobb will be working with Wreaths Across America and The National League of POW-MIA Families through her Driven2Honor.org charity to invite POW-MIA wives and families to these special race events as honorary guests.
The commemorative POW-MIA logo will be carried on Cobb’s race truck recognizing Armed Forces Day and Memorial Day this May, Flag Day in June, Independence Day in July, National POW-MIA Recognition Day in September and Veterans Day in November.
Fans and followers are encouraged to visit www.driven2honor.org, www.wreathsacrossamerica.org or www.pow-miafamilies.org or on Facebook to purchase a commemorative t-shirt or to learn more how you can support these very worthy charities.
“To kick off Military Appreciation Month this May, we wanted to do something special,” says Cobb. “The POW-MIA cause has been a longstanding national concern and we felt this was appropriate and a great opportunity to recognize those who are still missing and the families who are still grieving over their missing family member that served our country. I’m truly blessed and honored to be working with great organizations such as Wreaths Across America, The National League of POW MIA Families and many trucking companies and organizations as well such as The Used Truck Association, Truckload Carriers Association, American Trucking Association, Women In Trucking Association and Arrow Truck Sales. The trucking industry is the backbone of this country and the support of our military and veterans by the professional drivers making sure freight is delivered safely all across the United States, is unwavering, like the support of my team and Wreaths Across America. My Driven2Honor initiative honors women in the military but I thought how difficult it must be for the wives of those still missing or unaccounted for and how they have to deal with it on a day to day basis. We hope we can bring awareness to this cause in what we do this year. I’m honored to have the highly recognizable POW-MIA logo on my Driven 2 Honor race truck. I know it means a lot to those who have given the most. It’s time to bring them home.”
Wayne Hanson, Chairman of the Board for Wreaths Across America, said “WAA is pleased to join with Jennifer Jo Cobb and America’s trucking industry to bring attention to the plight of those service members still listed as POW or MIA even after over 50 years. We must never forget them or their service to this country.”
# # #
Contact: David Pack
Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing, LLC
Magic Valley POW/MIA Awareness Association Luncheon, Twin Falls, ID
April 17, 2015
LAST NIGHT IN WARNER ROBINS GA…LOCAL ROLLING THUNDER GA-3 CHAPTER
MAKING IT HAPPEN…
POW/MIA CHAIR OF HONOR DEDICATION CEREMONY
Rolling Thunder GA-3 and Veterans High School in Houston County
held a POW/MIA “Never Forgotten” chair dedication ceremony. The event will took place on
April 16, 2015, at the Veterans High School
baseball field. Rolling Thunder GA-3 dedicated two POW/MIA Chair of
Honor chairs prior to their game against Tattnall Square Academy. These
chairs will be a reminder that we shall “never forget” those still
Missing In Action.
There are still 8,966 American soldiers from previous wars unaccounted
for. We cannot forget them or their families who have never found
Rolling Thunder GA-3 is a non-profit organization, whose members donate
their time and efforts to educate and publicize the American Prisoner Of
War (POW) and Missing in Action (MIA). We are also committed to helping
American Veterans from all wars.
TF Meetings to Discuss Troops Missing in Action
APRIL 16, 2015 1:30 AM • TIMES-NEWS
TWIN FALLS • The nonprofit Magic Valley POW/MIA Awareness Association is holding events this weekend to raise awareness of U.S. troops missing in action.
Mark Stephensen, vice chairman of the board of directors of the National League of POW/MIA Families, will be the guest speaker at 7 p.m. Friday at a meeting at the Shilo Inn, 1586 Blue Lakes Blvd. N.
A roundtable discussion is scheduled as well as a question-and-answer period for the public.
“If people have questions, we should have an answer for them,” said Cliff Lockhart, director of of the Magic Valley group.
Various workshops will start at 9 a.m. Saturday and run until noon, and resume at 1:30 p.m. and end at about 4 p.m. Members of POW/MIA groups in Boise, Pocatello, Layton, Utah and Elko, Nev., are expected to attend.
The National League of POW/MIA Families seeks to account for all troops missing in action and the repatriation of all recoverable remains of U.S. troops who died during the Vietnam War.
Representatives from the group recently met with U.S. and foreign officials in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.
A social hour, dinner, auction and concert will be held at the Turf Club, 734 Falls Ave., starting at 5 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door.
AMG Comment: In addition to wishing I were in Twin Falls, ID, instead of here in the Metro DC area, I’m gl ad to report that our Southern Nevada Coordinator has arrived there, and Northern Nevada Coordinator Les Brown is due in tomorrow, Vice Chairman of the Board and Region 4 Coordinator Mark Stephensen, and Idaho State Coordinator Lance Stephensen, all representing the League of course. All of us who work closely with them are so pleased that the Magic Valley POW/MIA Awareness Association, led by Cliff Lockhart, is increasingly active and in full support of the League. Best to all, Ann
LCPL Raul S. Bravo Memorial Scholarship Fundraiser
SATURDAY, APRIL 11, 2015, Elko, NV
ATTENTION MARINES who served with LCPL Raul S. Bravo!
Bravo’s mother is requesting your presence at the LCPL Raul S. Bravo Memorial Scholarship Fundraiser ,to be held SATURDAY, APRIL 11, 2015, Elko, NV. Mark your calendars!
Many of you have said that if you know the date in advance, you’ll attend. Since my son’s death, only 1 Marine has attended in 7 years. Let’s show the City of Elko that while LCPL Bravo may be gone, his sacrifice will NEVER BE FORGOTTEN
This event is sponsored by Elko’s battle-worn POW / MIA; beginning with a motorcycle bike ride early that morning, which ends at Elko City Park (directly across from Police Station. A 15 min. memorial service begins at 12:00 noon with flag presentation & honor guard, followed by the barbecue. Local news media cover this event. Please, do what is necessary to join us in raising $ in Bravo’s memory. My son never realized his dream of attending college & becoming a police officer. But thanks to his scholarship fund, 36 graduating seniors have received grants ‘to date’ progressing them toward their life’s goal (4 seniors are selected annually)
My son graduated from Elko High School, education was very important to him.
He loved Elko dearly & wanted to be buried there, but I buried him in Las Vegas so that his family & Marine comrades could visit his grave regularly.
We’re desperate to replenish this fund & keep it going for years to come!
If you can attend, e-mail me email@example.com. We’ll be there & would love to have as many of you as possible join us in celebrating my son’s lif
To donate please send your tax deductible donations by check or money order directly to
KAREN HUGHEY, Scholarship Coordinato
Elko High School, 987 College Ave., Elko, NV 89801
Phone: (775) 738-7281 ext. 1112 / Fax: (775) 738-7227
Love, Honor & Respect, Chato’s mom
TRIP REPORT: LEAGUE DELEGATION TO SOUTHEAST ASIA
January 20 – February 10, 2015
Summary: League Chairman of the Board Ann Mills-Griffiths, Vice Chairman Mark Stephensen and Senior Policy Advisor Richard Childress comprised the League Delegation that represented all the Vietnam War POW/MIA families, as well as the interests of working level US officials and our nation’s veterans, in meetings with US and foreign officials in Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand from January 23 – February 10th.
The League is especially grateful to our Senior Policy Advisor, Richard T. Childress, who has served in this position since retiring from the Army in January, 1989, the very day he left his key position (after a record eight years) as Director of Asian Affairs on President Reagan’s National Security Council staff. Trained as a Thai Foreign Area Officer (FAO) with unparalleled knowledge, experience and friendships across Southeast Asia made him invaluable to the League, to the success of the POW/MIA accounting mission, with commitment amply demonstrated since 1981. After hours of conversations and briefings by the League and dedicated US officials then in place, he developed the Reagan Administration’s “10-point strategy” to resolve the issue and never stopped pushing. He and his wife, Elli, have attended every annual meeting since 1981, though his early participation was official. He took the issue seriously, understood the families’ perspective and, despite unwarranted attacks, set about implementing President Reagan’s assigned priority. This League Delegation was the 5th since he assessed Vietnam’s cooperation and decided he could, in good conscience, return to Vietnam. The significant results achieved since priority was raised in 1982 are in large part due to the efforts of Richard T. Childress, to whom all the POW/MIA families owe a tremendous debt of gratitude.
US Ambassadors, Deputy Chiefs of Mission and Embassy staff members, Detachment Commanders and staff, and Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) Stony Beach Team specialists participated in all official discussions. The League appreciates the briefings from those most directly engaged with counterpart governments in all countries visited, as we did their support during working-level meetings and calls on senior officials.
Following several meetings at US Embassy Bangkok, including with US Chargé d’Affaires Patrick Murphy, DIA’s Stony Beach Program Chief Brad Taylor and Lao/Thai specialists Jared Ellison and David White, Detachment 1 Commander Lieutenant Colonel (Lt Col) Rob Culpepper, USAF, Deputy Commander Major (MAJ) Dan Robinson, USA, and Cambodia specialist personnel Vina Chhouk, the Army Attaché, and others on the Country Team, the Delegation first traveled to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, for discussions with US Ambassador Bill Todd and his Country Team.
In Cambodia, meetings were held with Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) and Minister of Interior (MOI) Sar Kheng, President of the National Assembly Heng Samrin, General Moeang Samphan, Secretary of State in the Ministry of National Defense (MND), and MOI Secretary of State and Permanent Vice Chairman of the Cambodian POW/MIA Committee Sieng Lapresse, before flying by helicopter to Koh Tang, island site of an ongoing effort to recover personnel still unaccounted-for from the 1975 USS Mayaguez incident, including three Marines left behind alive.
The next stop was Vientiane, Laos, for discussions with US Ambassador Dan Clune and his Country Team before visiting three of four ongoing field recoveries, a completed and closed site, and returning to the Lao capital. Discussions were held with DPM and Minister of Foreign Affairs (MFA) Thongloun Sisoulith, Vice Minister of National Defense (MND) Lieutenant General (LTG) Chansamone Chansylath, President of the Lao National Veterans Federation Brigadier General (BG) Somphone Keomixay and Ambassador Khouanta Phalivong, Director General of MFA’s Americas Department and head of the Lao POW/MIA Team, comprised of MFA, MND and Ministry of Public Security (MPS) officials.
Always central to many of the League’s overall goals, Vietnam was the final stop. Detailed discussions took place with the Vietnam Office for Seeking Missing Persons (VNOSMP), the accustomed prelude to senior policy-level discussions with Vice Minister of National Defense (MND) Senior LTG Nguyen Chi Vinh, Vice Minister of Public Security (MPS) To Lam, and Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs (MFA) Ha Kim Ngoc Ngoc, all of then known to the League from past years.
Mrs. Childress and Mrs. Stephensen accompanied their husbands and, along with DIA’s Stony Beach Program Chief Brad Taylor, visited (by road and boat) one of the field recovery sites in Laos. The ladies also attended several social events in each country and added significantly to the Delegation’s efforts by their presence. As is customary since 2003, expenses for individual travel and accommodations, as well as most meals, were voluntarily paid by the participants, for which the League expresses sincere appreciation. In each country, the ladies, aided by the Chairman, purchased locally crafted items to raise funds for the League at this year’s Annual Meeting Boutique, a very successful side-event, chaired by League State Coordinator Elaine Palen, assisted by Mrs. Childress.
We are also grateful for the support extended by the Washington, DC-based Vietnamese, Lao and Cambodian Ambassadors and their Embassy staffs. For many years, League Delegations have received courtesy visas prior to departure; a gesture of significant respect for the League and our mission, and this year was no exception. The League Chairman and Office Administrator Leslie Swindells met over lunch with long-serving Lao Ambassador Seng Soukhathivong while his staff worked to accomplish issuing the visas. The Royal Cambodian Embassy was equally accommodating, though Ambassador Hen Hem was ill, so we met with Special Assistant to the Ambassador Peang Gafour. Finally, special appreciation and a warm welcome are extended to Vietnam’s new Ambassador to the US Pham Quang Vinh. He has tough shoes to fill with the return to Hanoi of his predecessor, Ambassador Nguyen Quoc Cuong, a uniquely talented individual who delivered stirring, thoughtful remarks at the League’s 44th Annual Meeting Dinner in June 2013 and was very successful as his Nation’s Ambassador to the United States.
Cambodia: Consistently cooperative for decades, Cambodia continues to provide the highest level of support and assistance, responding positively to all requests. Failure to achieve answers in recent years has been due to US-imposed legal obstacles to operations, budget shortages and scheduling glitches. As a result, the primary focus in Cambodia is to express the families’ and our nation’s appreciation for their willingness to assist all POW/MIA accounting efforts on a humanitarian basis.
We first called on US Ambassador to Cambodia Bill Todd, a talented asset and advocate for all US interests and, in our case, specifically on the accounting mission. He and his Country Team, including long-serving DIA Stony Beach Cambodia specialist Pete Loverde, were informative and helpful in briefing the Delegation on all aspects of US objectives in Cambodia, including the level of humanitarian assistance and support through USAID and the NGO community, the increase in military-to-military cooperation, bilateral and multilateral efforts on mutual concerns, such as addressing international terrorism, narcotics and human trafficking, etc. Lt Col Rob Culpepper, USAF, Commander of Detachment 1 in Bangkok, also leads POW/MIA operations in Cambodia and was supporting us throughout our visit.
League delegations over many years have been received at the highest levels in the Kingdom of Cambodia, including by His Majesty King Norodom Sihamony and long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen though, on this visit, these two leaders were out of the country. In Phnom Penh, we met with His Excellency Heng Samrin, President of the National Assembly, DPM/MOI Sar Kheng, Secretary of State in the MND General Moeang Samphan, and Permanent Vice Chairman of the Cambodian POW/MIA Committee Sieng Lapresse, who also serves as Secretary of State in the MOI. Due to a death in his family, we were unable to meet with long-time friend General Pol Saroeun, Commander in Chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and Chairman of the Cambodian POW/MIA Committee.
The League Delegation expressed appreciation for Cambodia’s decades of cooperation and the expectation that US funding and personnel would become more stable and predictable, plus likely increase as a result of the complete reorganization now ongoing. We thanked them for their total support and integration of the DIA Stony Beach Team specialist and stressed the fact that Cambodia continues to lead all countries in providing support and assistance. We asked them to try to ensure that sensitive border conflicts with the Lao and Vietnamese are not permitted to interfere with humanitarian cooperation, as had just occurred on the Lao-Cambodia border, causing cancellation of a field recovery in a border province. Though believed to be a localized action by uniformed border guards, Cambodian officials expressed concern and their intention to follow-up with the Lao. They also stressed continuing commitment to do whatever was needed for however long to help the US account for our missing personnel.
We were flown by helicopter to the USS Mayaguez excavation site in Koh Tang, an island off the southern coast of Cambodia. During this field visit, we also saw long-serving POW/MIA Committee Deputy Chairman LTG Kem Channee. We deeply appreciated this opportunity, facilitated by Detachment 1 Commander Lt Col Rob Culpepper, USAF, and his specialists. Senior Lab archeologist Brad Sturm, on his 66th field recovery as scientific leader, demonstrated his customary leadership and professionalism, motivating all involved with his commitment, positive attitude and commendable skill. All were impressed with the breadth and scope of the recovery and deeply appreciated the tremendous support and assistance provided.
Laos: We were met at Wattay International Airport by Detachment 3 Commander LTC Marcus Ferrara, USA, and long-time Casualty Resolution Specialist (CRS) Bill Gadoury, plus other Det 1 staff facilitating our arrival through customs. Discussions in Vientiane with US Ambassador to Laos Dan Clune and his Country Team were most helpful throughout the visit. Ambassador Clune and his wife, Judy, graciously hosted the League Chairman and the Childresses for the first three nights at their official residence, site of a lovely reception in the League’s honor they hosted for many Lao and US officials. The Country Team meeting, broad in scope, highlighted the need for renewed US efforts to increase the effective US Aid for International Development (USAID) program, a big component of longstanding efforts to demonstrate humanitarian reciprocity.
The Delegation’s initial in-country mission was to visit three of four ongoing field recoveries and one site previously completed and closed. After flying commercially on Lao Aviation to Savannakhet, we drove with Detachment 3 Commander LTC Ferrara to Xekong and overnighted at the base camp, the Xieng Khoang Hotel. We flew by helicopter to three recovery sites, received briefings, touring each and talking with the military teams and scientists, archeologists and anthropologists, all of whom were most impressive and committed, despite the difficulties faced.
We also surveyed a completed and closed site involving a reported burial location of a discrepancy Last Known Alive case. We all were extremely impressed by the scope and extent of this repeat recovery effort, symbolic to us of the extent to which US specialists go to account for US personnel still missing and unaccounted-for, whether an aircraft incident or a case of someone captured, held and reported to have died and been buried, perhaps the most difficult of sites to successfully locate and recover. While no additional remains were located during this follow-up recovery, it was meaningful to see firsthand the extraordinary effort made on this case, circumstances too often necessary.
At all of these sites, the League donated family size mosquito nets to village-level Lao officials, symbolic of additional nets, purchased by the League, that will be delivered by US field teams to Lao people helping with field recoveries in the various areas we visited. This small humanitarian gesture was meant to demonstrate the League’s continuing support for humanitarian assistance, an initiative begun by the US Government in the early years of the Reagan Administration and long since expanded.
The level of support and assistance provided by LTC Ferrara and his team throughout our time in Laos, but especially as we flew by helicopter and traveled by road and boat (in the case of the ladies and DIA’s Stony Beach specialist) to the field sites was extraordinary and deeply appreciated. We also were inspired by the dedicated field personnel with whom we were privileged to spend some time, including Lao personnel who were with us throughout. These mostly senior US enlisted personnel knew precisely why they were there, working in difficult locations under often dangerous circumstances, eating primarily self-transported food when in the field, more or less on the run between shifts. We are most grateful for their efforts and those of their leaders, military and civilian.
Following our return to Vientiane, significant discussions were held with Lao Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) and Minister of Foreign Affairs (MFA) Thongloun Sisoulith, raising points related to operational requirements necessary to be more efficient and effective in achieving accounting results, and again clarifying the role and status of DIA’s Stony Beach specialist in Laos. We briefly explained the ongoing reorganization of the US accounting community and expressed optimism that formation of the new Defense agency would help ensure full and predictable funding for field operations. To move cooperation forward, we urged the Lao Government to: 1) initiate another internal search for relevant records, few as they may be due to wartime circumstances, and request Vietnam’s assistance in providing relevant records on incidents where their troops operated during the war; 2) agree to an increase, as needed, in the number of US personnel allowed in-country simultaneously, to conduct field operations; 3) approve more US teams to operate from additional base camp locations near remote incident sites, when needed and requested, to expedite accounting results; 4) reassess and reduce imposed requirements for Lao escorts (security personnel) to help reduce costs; 5) raise an unnecessarily restrictive 8:00 p.m. curfew on US team participants; and 6) increase flexibility and participation by DIA’s Stony Beach in the investigation process. (Though assigned in Laos for over five years, with prior Lao agreement on increased flexibility within and outside of Joint Field Activities (JFAs), imposition of excessive escort and advance notice requirements continue to impede cost-effective, small team investigations, as initially and repeatedly proposed and long understood. Our dismay over this practice was cited as unbecoming in today’s environment.)
Related to all these points and suggestions, the League noted changed and changing circumstances in Laos, with freedom of movement by NGOs (Non-Government Organizations) and traveling tourists, no escort/security requirements imposed, etc. Given prior successes with Vietnam in 2011 and earlier in raising archival research in a detailed format, we provided a compelling reference summary of archival documents that the Lao should be able to locate, in Vientiane or Hanoi, and provide to the US or, at a minimum, produce a reasonable explanation as to why the archival documents might be unavailable. (All of the above points were raised in significant detail at an earlier “roundtable” discussion with working-level officials who grasped the proposals and agreed to raise them with their superiors, including focus on the small-team concept for Stony Beach-led investigations.)
DPM Thongloun’s positive reaction was notable, as was his reasoning in responding that all of these issues warrant a closer look to see what the Lao Government can recommend to solve such challenges. He recognized the difficulties of the archival document issue and indicated willingness to communicate with Vietnam, noting that unlike the Lao, the Vietnamese had the wartime ability to report and retain documents. He committed to looking closely at the current situation and how the proposed changes could be accommodated, stressing the importance of archives to reach the fullest possible accounting.
The DPM noted that security needs can be unpredictable, based on local understanding and acceptance, but pledged to look at the guard/escort requirements and step-by-step improvements. The Minister recognized the urgency in working to resolve any border issues so as not to adversely impact joint field operations and agreed to contact Cambodian officials. He expressed understanding of the small-team proposal related to the DIA Stony Beach investigations and indicated that the arrival of the new Stony Beach specialist in the spring will provide an opportunity to review the concept and look for ways to overcome any obstacles.
It was clear that DPM Thoungloun recognizes some of the restrictive measures of the past need to be modified, and changes for the better need to come with the ever-improving bilateral relationship. It is also evident that the loss of two key Lao national security officials in 2014 severely impacted the leadership of the Ministries of Defense and Public Security, leaving both with newly appointed senior officials who may or may not be permanently assigned in these positions. We are hopeful our visit will help them to better understand the history of our joint efforts over many years.
The gap caused by losing two such highly placed national security officials in the same helicopter accident is understandable and the situation is still in flux, possibly shifting to generational changes as in other areas. Time will tell but, in the interim, the Lao had an opportunity to respond further on all issues raised by the League during the semi-annual POW/MIA Consultations held February 20th in Vientiane by DPAA’s Interim Deputy Director Major General Kelly McKeague, USAF. (In these consultations following our return, the Lao responded in some areas, i.e., lifting unrealistic curfew restrictions, affirmed flexibility in permitting small team Stony Beach investigations outside of the Joint Field Activities, and agreed to reassess their archival holdings and communicate with Vietnam on their holdings that may be helpful but, as expected, deferred other matters for higher level consideration and decision.)
While, it seemed little short of miraculous to expect positive responses in such a short time (less than a month), shortly before the League Delegation’s arrival Ambassador Clune had sent the DPM/FM a very effective, succinct letter laying out some of these same concerns. The impact of a unified position by DoD, State and the League prompted some progress and, if DPM/FM Thongloun can manage to persuade the Lao leadership to react positively in other respects, it would be most welcome and mutually beneficial. DPM/FM Thongloun’s openness, warmth and receptiveness during discussions were welcome, encouraging, and revealed vision in looking to the future with cautiously optimistic realism.
Minister of Posts & Telecommunications (former Lao Ambassador to the US) Hiem Phommachanh and his wife, Kanika, retired senior official in the Lao MFA, hosted a luncheon in the League Delegation’s honor at the lovely new Landmark Hotel in Vientiane, during which much on POW/MIA accounting was discussed. The Minister’s current, challenging portfolio covers expanding telecom interconnectivity with neighboring countries, cybersecurity, and the issue of national telecom interface with worldwide networks/telecommunication.
Substantive discussions were also held with the Deputy MND LTG Chansamone Chanyalath and with President of the Lao National Veterans Federation BG Somphone Keomixay, the first such meeting by the League with a Lao official in charge of Veterans Affairs. BG Somphone indicated he looks forward to meeting any veteran delegations that may come to Laos and showed great familiarity with US-Lao accounting efforts, expressing his full support. The same basic points on POW/MIA accounting issues were raised in each meeting, though the focus for specific issue-related matters was during discussions with DPM/FM Thongloun, the ranking Lao official, and Ambassador Khouanta Philavong and the interagency specialists who participated in roundtable discussions.
Vietnam: Going into discussions with senior Vietnamese officials, a more cooperative attitude was evident, a positive spirit of mutual collaboration to address and solve any problems that exist and to seek solutions to new challenges. Due to 2013 discussions in Washington, DC, on the sidelines of bilateral US-SRV Defense Dialogue, it was clear that initiatives to expand bilateral and multilateral POW/MIA accounting cooperation would be given positive consideration. This was in keeping with Vietnamese proposals – to the League since 2009 and repeatedly since to the League and US officials – to expand the pace and scope of field operations and overall cooperation. US responsiveness to Vietnamese proposals had been sporadic at best and undermined perceptions of US seriousness in the minds of many, domestically and internationally. As a result, we looked forward to positive, thoughtful discussions with officials in the Vietnam Office for Seeking Missing Persons (VNOSMP), the coordination point within the SRV Government for all POW/MIA accounting-related matters, followed by meetings with senior Vietnamese officials.
We were met upon arrival on February 3rd at Noi Bai International Airport by Detachment 2 Commander LTC Julian T. (JT) Tran, USA, and long-time Casualty Resolution Specialist Ron Ward, transported to the Hilton Hanoi L’Opera Hotel where we were met by DIA’s Stony Beach Team Vietnam specialist Mike Najim.
The following morning, US Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius hosted a Country Team Briefing at his residence in downtown Hanoi, after which we returned to the Hilton, prior to departure for the VNOSMP’s Office at the Ministry of Defense where extended, very positive and detailed discussions were held with Director Mr. Tran Thanh Tam and interagency members of the VNOSMP. In addition to specific requests, we briefly explained the ongoing reorganization of the US accounting community and expressed optimism that formation of the new Defense agency would help ensure full and predictable funding for field operations.
This substantive discussion was followed by an office call with Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Ha Kim Ngoc, known to the League from earlier years in MFA and VNOSMP, with significant experience dealing with Americans during his tenure at the United Nations. A lovely dinner that evening was hosted by Mr. Nguyen Ba Hung, MFA’s Americas Director and former head of the VNOSMP, also very well known to the League from prior VNOSMP chairmanship and other MFA assignments; he was the Consul General in San Francisco prior to returning to Hanoi.
The first formal meeting on Thursday, February 5th, was with Mr. To Lam, Vice Minister of Public Security (MPS) at the Ministry’s External Affairs Office. Again, Vice Minister To Lam was familiar to the League from our call in 2011, also at the Ministry. This important session was followed by the all-important meeting with Senior Lt. General Nguyen Chi Vinh, Vice Minister of National Defense (MND) and he was also known to us. (In addition to the League Delegation in 2011, the League Chairman had met with LTG Vinh in 2014 when he was in Washington, DC, for the Defense Dialogue with the US Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs (ASD/APSA), a position since assumed by former US Ambassador to Vietnam David Shear.)
The same points were raised at all meetings, in greater detail with the VNOSMP, and a hard copy was left to ensure there were no misunderstandings, though interpretation support was outstanding, whether by Ron Ward or a Vietnamese official. We first recognized how far things had come since cooperation was seriously begun in the early 1980s, noting that this year marks the 30th anniversary of the first joint recovery in Vietnam, cooperation that served as a bridge leading to normalization of the bilateral relationship celebrating the 20th anniversary this year. We expressed sincere gratitude to the government and people of Vietnam for the humanitarian assistance that has brought answers and peace of mind to several hundred American families and the continuing improvements that are making today’s efforts even more efficient and effective.
In light of the increasingly close partnership between our countries and the ever-expanding political, economic and military relationship, we noted it is increasingly hard to explain to the families and veterans why there would be any remaining obstacles to full, open cooperation. Thus, in light of current circumstances, we noted we are urging both countries to intensify cooperation – both unilateral and joint – before more immediate family members as well as case-related witnesses, pass away.
Specifically, we asked Vietnam to 1) waive the 100-person limit on US personnel allowed for each JFA when the need arises or additional personnel unexpectedly become available; 2) approve more than two recovery teams operating in one province simultaneously, when justified on a case-by-case basis; 3) approve the two DIA Stony Beach Team Vietnam specialists for permanent relocation to Hanoi; 4) renew and expand unilateral research to other-than-military archives and provide long-requested documents on last-known-alive and other discrepancy cases in Vietnam and in areas of Laos and Cambodia where Vietnamese forces operated during the war; 5) locate and provide the remains, or remains fragments, of US personnel who died while in Vietnam’s control that have not yet been returned and are unlikely to be recovered jointly.
Responsiveness at all levels was positive, both generally and specifically, with clear affirmation of commitment and willingness to renew archival research, noting it has become routine since 2011 and will continue. The Vietnamese noted they had provided 82 documents since the League’s last visit and that some archives are not filed by POW/MIA as a topic, thus are more difficult to locate. They added that they will accept the Lao cases for ideas on how to search their archives and will work with the Lao, if asked. They affirmed their intention to continue the unilateral Vietnamese Recovery Team (VRT) concept, jointly tested and determined to be very productive and less costly. They offered to expand the VRT process to take on more and more difficult cases if the US wishes to do so.
They noted that from the initial list of 34 restricted cases, there are now only two sites still in that category, both off shore and too sensitive for joint operations in the current environment. (Unspoken were concerns over dissension in the South China Sea.) The Vietnamese agreed to further increase the pace and scope of operations, adding that both sides must prepare personnel for expansion, citing the US need for more team leaders, linguists, archeologists and anthropologists, noting their need to train Vietnamese personnel to develop skills necessary for conducting advance negotiation and coordination with provincial officials. They added that we, collectively, must not lose effectiveness. They also opined that the remaining cases in Vietnam are increasingly difficult and pose significant risks to all personnel, asking that the League convey this concern over health and safety to US officials. We replied by stating our view that the US Government was not legally permitted to offer health insurance protection, as previously requested, but that safety of Vietnamese and Americans on the joint teams was also highest priority to the US side.
Related to longstanding, repeated US requests for acceptance of the two Stony Beach specialists on a permanent basis, Vice Minister of Public Security To Lam indicated he saw no problem with them working in the MIA office and, after hearing that they don’t work for the Detachment, but to augment the Detachment’s investigations, the Vice Minister indicated that the Stony Beach visas could be extended (1 year vs 3 months) as an interim step while this was further considered. (Ultimately, this will be resolved by higher level consideration, but the attitude for consideration was positive.)
Vice Minister of Defense Senior LTG Vinh agreed to increase cooperation and look closely at all initiatives discussed with the VNOSMP and raised to Vice Minister Ngoc and Vice Minister To Lam. He asked for greater assistance by the US to locate remains of their servicemen and, in particular, asked the League to help spread the word about our collective efforts. He mentioned having traveled with SRV President Truong Tan Sang to the US in 2013 and meeting with veterans group representatives at that time, an opportunity he viewed as invaluable to increase understanding between the veterans in the two countries. He also expressed appreciation for the humanitarian assistance the US has provided to help ameliorate the dangers of unexploded ordnance and damage suffered from Agent Orange, especially in the Da Nang area that was heavily impacted. We provided suggested archival locations in the US on which Vietnamese researchers could focus and pledged to notify the major national veterans organization, though League channels, of their impending visit and need for assistance in this area.
Personal Reflections of Vice Chairman of the Board Mark L. Stephensen, written February 4, 2015 and raised in concept during the VNOSMP meeting: My father, Col Mark Stephensen, USAF, MIA/remains returned, flew 94 missions over North Vietnam before his RF-4C crashed evading hostile fire. The last two days, I’ve been privileged to be on a field visit to 4 field Recovery sites in Savannakhet Province, Laos. As we were transiting to the sites via ground vehicles and helicopters, I was struck by the thought that I was witnessing the same terrain and environment my father saw as he executed his missions from Northeast Thailand into North and, perhaps, South Vietnam.
I could see the majestic mountain ranges with formidable karst formations. I stood under the jungle canopy, sometimes in double and triple thickness. Looking up from the ground and down from the helicopter as we flew, I could appreciate how someone on the ground could hear and almost see a rescuer, but not be seen by him. I saw the smoke and haze and clouds that could hide an entire mountain range blocking line-of-sight-style radios and rescue beacons. I appreciated how easy it was to hide deadly, radar-guided anti-aircraft missiles and artillery in the dense foliage and rocky terrain. I could only imagine the desperation of wounded crewmen in badly damaged aircraft trying to get back to the safety of Thailand through this deadly landscape.
The province we visited was directly on the Ho Chi Minh trail which was used by the North Vietnamese Army to supply combat missions into South Vietnam and support the Viet Cong already there as well. Two of the sites we visited were other RF-4C losses. Of the four crewmembers on these two aircraft, two were accounted for and the other two are still missing in action, with a presumption of death. Both incidents were similar to my father’s circumstances of loss; both resulted in high speed impacts with considerable destruction of the aircraft.
Fortunately for our extended family, my father’s remains were recovered by the NVA, initially buried, later exhumed, stored, then unilaterally repatriated and identified. My father was afforded proper burial with full military honors. The effort we witnessed was to affect the same for these two unreturned US veterans. I also saw brave, dedicated US service personnel who volunteer to work in harsh and uncomfortable conditions, away from home for months, searching for their missing comrades. Most weren’t even born when these men fought and died. They are all heroes.
As I rode in the van and in the helicopter, I thought to myself, as Dad was flying over this country, he probably could not have imagined in his wildest dreams that his oldest son would someday be driving in that same country looking for missing Americans With indescribable irony, I can only imagine that he was thinking of his family, but those thoughts would have been back at home in Idaho, certainly not in Laos.
League Delegation Photos of the visit to Koh Tang, Cambodia, site of the May 1975 tragedy and ongoing effort to account for those still missing/unaccounted-for there. The forensic archeologist on the site is Brad Sturm. The Cambodian official portrayed walking with us is LTG Kem Chanee, for the Cambodian POW/MIA Committee, and the female pilot’s name is Annie, flies the teams back/forth, Helicopters New Zealand.
General Mark A. Welsh III, Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force, will preside at a wreath-laying ceremony in honor of Air Force Vietnam War Prisoners of War and Missing in Action on Monday, March 2, 2015 at 10:30 A.M. at the Air Force Memorial. This date is the 50th Anniversary of the shootdown of the United States Air Force pilot who subsequently became the first USAF POW of the Vietnam War. This is an opportunity for veterans, family members, current service members, and any interested person to join in remembering and honoring the brave Airmen who sacrificed so much in service to their country.
Notes from Southeast Asia
Mark Stephesen, Vice Chairman, National League of POW/MIA Families
February 4, 2015
My father, Col Mark Stephensen, USAF, MIA/KIA/remains returned, flew 94 missions over North Vietnam before his RF-4C crashed evading hostile fire. The last two days, I’ve been privileged to be on a field visit to 4 joint field excavations in the Savannaket Province, Laos PDR. We were transiting to the sites via ground vehicles and helicopter. As we were traveling, I was struck by the thought that I was witnessing the same terrain and environment my father saw as he executed his missions into North and perhaps South Vietnam. I could see the majestic mountain ranges with the formidable carst formations. I stood under the jungle canopy, sometimes in double and triple thickness. Looking up from the ground and down from the helicopter as we flew, I could appreciate how someone on the ground could hear and maybe see a rescuer, but they could not see him. I saw the smoke and haze and clouds that could hide an entire mountain range blocking line-of-sight, radios and rescue beacons. I appreciated how easy it was to hide deadly, radar-guided anti-aircraft missiles and artillery in the dense foliage and rocky terrain. I could only imagine the desperation of wounded crewmen in badly damaged aircraft trying to get back to the safety of Thailand through this deadly land.
The province we visited was directly on the Ho Chi Minh trail which was used by the North Vietnamese Army to supply its combat missions in South Vietnam and also supported the Viet Cong there as well. Two of the sites we visited were other RF-4C losses. Of the four crewmembers on these two aircraft, two were accounted for. The other two remain missing in action with a presumption of death. Both incidents were similar to my father’s circumstance of loss. Both resulted in high speed impacts with considerable destruction of the aircraft. Fortunately for my family, my father’s remains were recovered by the NVA, buried, later exhumed and stored. My father was afforded proper burial with full military honors. The effort we witnessed was to affect the same for these two US unreturned veterans.
I also saw brave and dedicated US volunteers working in harsh and uncomfortable conditions, away from home for months, searching for their missing comrades. Some weren’t even born when these men fought and died. They are all heroes.
As I rode in the van and in the helicopter, I thought to myself, as Dad was flying over this country, he probably could not have imagined in his wildest dreams, that his oldest son would someday be driving in that same country looking for MIAs. With indescribable irony, I can only imagine that he was thinking of his family, but those thoughts may have been back at home in Idaho, not in Laos.
Mrs. Ann Mills-Griffiths courtesy call with H.E. Thongloun Sisoulith, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Lao PDR on 2 February, 2015
February 3, 2015
National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing In Southeast Asia Chairman of the Board, Ms. Ann Mills-Griffiths visit to the Lao PDR
The Chairman of the Board of the National League of Families of Prisoners and Missing Americans in Southeast Asia led a delegation on a visit to the Lao PDR from 27 January to 3 February, 2015. Ms. Griffiths was accompanied by the League’s Senior Policy Advisor, Mr. Richard Childress, and Vice Chairman of the Board, Mr. Mark Stephensen. While in Vientiane, the delegation met with U.S. Ambassador, Daniel Clune and his staff at the U.S. Embassy, Vientiane, to receive an update on the continued development of the U.S. relationship with the Lao PDR, and to learn about progress on the POW/MIA issue to work toward the fullest possible accounting for the remaining 305 Americans still unaccounted for from the Indochina Conflict in the Lao PDR. On 29 January Ms. Griffiths met with the H.E. Lieutenant General Chansamone Chanyalath, Vice Minister of National Defense, and also with the Chairman of the Lao National Veterans Federation. That evening U.S. Ambassador Daniel Clue hosted a reception in Mrs. Griffiths’ honor attended by a number of current and past Lao government officials who have contributed to the U.S. POW/MIA search and recovery efforts since Ms. Griffiths’ first visit to the Lao PDR in 1982. From 30 January to 1 February Ms. Griffiths and her delegation visited the Joint Field Activity 15-2LA teams currently conducting recovery operations at American MIA loss sites in Xepon and Vilabouli districts in Savannakhet Province. At the completion of the field visit the delegation returned to Vientiane for additional meetings on 2 February with senior level officials including Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs H.E. Thongloun Sisoulith, Minister of the President’s office, H.E. Phongsavath Boupha, and a working lunch with H.E. Hiem Phommachanh, Minister of Posts and Telecommunications. On the evening of 2 February, the Ministry of National Defense hosted a dinner at the Lane Xang Hotel in honor of Ms.
Griffiths’ visit to the Lao PDR. On 3 February, the delegation departed to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam for consultations and review of progress on the POW/MIA issue in that country.
Cambodia to facilitate U.S. efforts in search for soldiers’ remains in Vietnam war
PHNOM PENH, Jan. 26 (Xinhua) — President of Cambodian National Assembly Heng Samrin said on Monday that he would urge the government to facilitate the continued U.S. efforts in searching for American soldiers who were missing in Cambodia during the Vietnam War 50 years ago.
Samrin made the r…emarks when meeting with Ann Mills Griffiths, president of the National League of POW-MIA (Prisoner of War/ Missing in Action) Families, spokesman Keo Piseth told reporters after the meeting.
“Samrin highly spoke of the U.S. mission in searching for the remains of American soldiers missing in the Vietnam War, saying that such humanitarian mission has given an honour to the victims and an encouragement to the family members of the victims,” he said.
According to the spokesman, Samrin, on behalf of the National Assembly, supported and would urge the Cambodian government to continue cooperation with the National League of POW-MIA Families in order to expand searching areas for the remains of those missing soldiers.
In Cambodia alone, 90 American soldiers are unaccounted for from the Vietnam conflict, according to Samrin. So far, 38 of them had been found.
For her part, Griffiths expressed thanks to the Cambodian National Assembly and the government for supporting this humanitarian mission.
She said the mission in Cambodia will take longer time since it needs to expand the searching areas.
On January 7th, 2015, family member Fred Pringle, son of SMAJ Joe H. Pringle, USA, 2-2-68, SVN, representing the League, attended a special presentation by 10th grade honors students in World History and English Interdisciplinary Studies at Olentangy Liberty High School, Powell, Ohio. The theme was History vs Hollywood. Student, Jordan Polk, chose to make her presentation on the movie Rescue Dawn and is shown standing in front of her exhibit.
Ambassador Clune and his wife Judy just returned from an overnight visit to Ta Oy Base
Camp, where they were able to visit three recovery sites and share an
early Thanksgiving dinner with the teams.
WALK OF HEROES MEMORIAL
Veterans Day Program
TUESDAY NOVEMBER 11, 2014
WALK OF HEROES MEMORIAL
Black Shoals Park, Conyers, GA
KEY NOTE SPEAKER
CPT. JOHN WARREN
3RD BN, 8TH MARINES
BATTLE OF RAMADI, MARCH 2006
PRESIDENT & FOUNDER
LIMA ONE CAPITAL
FOR MORE INFORMATION CALL
GEORGIA VETERANS MEMORIAL PARK FOUNDATION, INC.
P.O. Box 289, Conyers, Georgia 30012
50th Annual Veterans Day Tribute to Honor Veterans from U.S. Conflict to be held in Hillsborough County
TAMPA, Fla. – (Oct. 28, 2014) – The Veterans Council of Hillsborough County, Inc. will conduct the 50th Annual Veterans Day Tribute to honor all veterans from U.S. conflict on Veterans Day, Tuesday, Nov. 11. This ceremony will take place at Veterans Memorial Park and Rear Admiral LeRoy Collins Jr. Veterans Museum located a half mile south of the Florida State Fairgrounds at 3602 U.S. Highway 301N. The ceremony will begin promptly at 11 a.m. in remembrance of the time of the Armistice to end the First World War in 1918.
The ceremony will begin with the presentation of the colors by the Middleton High School Air Force JROTC Cadets. Teresa Foss will sing the national anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance will be led by JROTC Cadet Tina Bond from Hillsborough High School. There will be over 50 JROTC Cadets from 10 area high schools in attendance to perform a drill demonstration and a Pass-In-Review. Mr. Frank Strom, Managing Director, Division of Veterans Affairs will make brief remarks.
The POW/MIA Missing Man Ceremony to remember those who have not yet made it home will be performed by the Scottish-American Military Society. A Wreath Tribute will be presented by the Gold Star Wives, Gold Star Mothers and Gold Star Families of America. A rifle salute and the playing of TAPS will be rendered by the Marine Corps League Riverview Detachment 1226.
The Master of Ceremonies is retired Lt. Col. James W. Haake, USA, and the keynote speaker will be former Commanding General of the Third Army (the Army component of CENTCOM) and retired Lt. Gen. James R. Ellis, USA. There will be presentations from three JROTC Cadets regarding Patriotism and Veterans Day. Several dignitaries will be in attendance. The coveted Edwin Porterfield Award and the Keeping the American Patriotic Spirit Alive Award will be presented. A special presentation of an Action Trackchair will be made by Freedom Alliance’s Executive Director, Calvin Coolidge to 1st Lt. Nate Nelson, USAF and Wounded Warrior in Operation Enduring Freedom.
A special highway dedication ceremony sponsored by the Florida Division of the Federal Highway Administration will also take place to designate the following:
- A portion of U.S. 301 between Adamo Drive and Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd to Sergeant First Class Paul R. Smith Memorial Highway
- Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. between I-75 and I-4 to POW/MIA Memorial Highway
- The Veterans Expressway between State Road 60/Courtney Campbell Causeway and Dale Mabry Highway to RADM LeRoy Collins, Jr. Veterans Expressway
- A portion of 50th Street between Palm River Road and Causeway Blvd. to Deputy Sheriff David Anthony Abella Memorial Highway
This ceremony is open to the public and tented seating will be available. Following the Veterans Day program, refreshments will be served by VFW Post 8108 and PDQ from Riverview.
Veterans Tribute at Washington National Cathedral
Featuring the Marine Corps Orchestra, Washington National Cathedral Choir and selections from American War Letters
Friday, November 7th at 7 pm
This 75 minute program of inspiring words and music in the magnificent setting of Washington National Cathedral will give tribute to the service and sacrifice of all service men and women of the armed forces and their families.
The program will use, as its narrative, letters sent from the warfront during the major conflicts of the last 100 years. We hear personal stories of courage, patriotism and sacrifice made by those who risk their lives for the nation. In honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice, we also hold up those whose experience of war has left scars, both visible and invisible, and for whom the return to civilian life has proved challenging.
The music will be performed by the choir of the National Cathedral and The President’s Own, Marine Corps Orchestra. From the rousing Liberty Fanfare of John Williams to the thoughtful setting of Psalm 23 set to music by John Rutter, the audience will find moments that will both stir the spirit and soothe the soul.
The letters will be selected from the Center for American War Letters curated by Andrew Carroll. Carroll has published several books of wartime letters and his research has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine and the New York Times. He has letters from every American conflict and some of the stories they share are both heart stopping and heart wrenching. Chapman University’s Center for American War Letters has recently agreed to house these treasures so they may be protected for generations to come. As the Chapman website states, “these personal war-time correspondences are a vital record of the collective memory of the American people, as witnessed and articulated by service members, veterans, and their loved ones, who experienced these wars firsthand.” Carroll has agreed to work personally with Washington National Cathedral on this project. More information about Carroll and the Center for American War Letters can be found at http://www.chapman.edu/research-and-institutions/cawl/index.aspx
This tribute event will be free and open to the public with no ticketing required. The Cathedral hopes to gather veterans, active military and their families as well as those who are eager to show their support for these extraordinary Americans.
This event is part of the Cathedral’s Veterans Initiative, which offers various programs and activities in an ongoing effort to:
Recognize and pay tribute to those who have served and sacrificed for our country
Offer a sacred space for spiritual refreshment and healing for veterans and their families
Educate the civilian public about the experience of veterans during their service and the challenges they and their families face when they return home.
Massachusetts and Wisconsin Avenues, NW
Washington, DC 20016
Veterans’ Day Ceremony – Capt. Rocky Versace Plaza, 11 November
The “Friends of Rocky Versace” will host the 13th Annual Veterans’ Day Ceremony in Alexandria on Tuesday, 11 Nov 2014 at 1:00 PM. The approximately 1-hour, indoor Ceremony will honor posthumous Medal of Honor recipient and POW/MIA CPT Rocky Versace, MIAs SSG Douglas R. Blodgett, Maj Joseph E. Davies, Maj Morgan J. Donahue, 1LT Leland S. McCants and Seaman Apprentice John A. Winkler; the 61 other Alexandrians who died during the Vietnam War and all Veterans in attendance.
Location is indoors in the gym at the Mt Vernon Recreation Center’s Capt. Rocky Versace Plaza and Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial; City of Alexandria, 2701 Commonwealth Ave. (intersection of Commonwealth and Mt Vernon Aves.).
VETERANS FEST 2014
A musical festival in South Georgia in honor of America Heroes
VETERANS FEST 2014
Veterans Stadium – Brooks County Georgia
Saturday, November 8, 2014 (The weekend prior to Veteran’s Day)
Learn more about Veterans Fest 2014 here:
Please do share our festival with your peers, family and friends!
Below is a link for the POW / MIA Day in Georgia at the State Capitol on September 25, 2014. It is a Tribute to the Families of Georgia’s Fallen Heroes of the Vietnam War.
2014 NATIONAL POW/MIA RECOGNITION DAY
September 19, 2014 will be proclaimed by the President as National POW/MIA Recognition Day. Over the past several years, all or most of the 50 states have proclaimed POW/MIA Recognition Day in conjunction with the national effort. The League has asked each state to issue a proclamation, so please contact your Governor and ask for his/her support and a copy of your state’s proclamation! Across the country, local POW/MIA ceremonies are encouraged throughout POW/MIA Recognition Week, culminating with countless events and the national ceremony in Washington, DC, on Recognition Day. Support for these missing Americans and their families is deeply felt. America’s POW/MIAs should be honored and recognized, rather than memorialized, with the focus on continuing commitment to account as fully as possible for those still missing. Strong, united support by the American people is crucial to achieving concrete answers. Learn more: Recognition Day-9-19-14
Upcoming Recognition Day events across the country
- send us your plans and photos!
From our UK / European Coordinator for the National League of POW/MIA Families
Santa Rosa Memorial Park
POW/MIA DAY A Tribute:
Prisoners of War/Missing In Action
Friday, September 19, 2014
10:00 – Veteran’s Lawn
Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 972 in conjunction with the Idaho Falls Military Recruiters present the National POW/MIA Recognition Day
Place: Idaho Falls Greenbelt Trail | City: Idaho Falls, United States
VA to observe POW/MIA Recognition Day on Sept. 19
IRON MOUNTAIN, MI The Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center in Iron Mountain, will be holding a National POW/MIA Recognition Day ceremony at 11 a.m. Friday, Sept. 19, at the Pine Grove Country Club.
The public is welcome to attend the ceremony. The ceremony will pay tribute to America’s former prisoners of war who live in the area and those killed or still missing in action.
The keynote speaker is Glenn Johnson of Rhinelander, Wis., a former World War II prisoner of war (POW) who successfully escaped from a German POW camp. The ceremony will include music and readings by VA staff and volunteers.
A private luncheon for the former POWs and their families will follow the ceremony.
Pine Grove Country Club is located at 1520 W. Hughitt St. in Iron Mountain.
Questions regarding the POW/MIA ceremony may be directed to Brad Nelson at (906) 774-3300, extension 32001.
Air Force Sergeants Association (AFSA)
AFSA POW-MIA 24hr Run McChord Field Please join AFSA Chapter 1461 in our second annual POW/MIA Recognition Day 24-Hour run. The purpose of this event is to recognize our brothers and sisters that are not forgotten and to support the enlisted family, past and present. If you are interested in donating for this cause, please review and complete the information below. All donations support the enlisted community and will enhance the quality of life and morale of the Airmen. Register: firstname.lastname@example.org
Trucksville church group will light watch fires for veterans
Ed Zimmerman, seen here, will be guest speaker at a National POW/MIA Recognition Day event in Trucksville on Sept. 19. In war, watch fires were lit on hilltops and at the mouths of rivers after a battle, so those separated from their units could find their way back.
Fultondale to participate in National POW/MIA Recognition Day Sept. 19
FULTONDALE, Alabama – The city of Fultondale will honor the nation’s Missing in Action and Prisoners of War this September.
The Fultondale City Council issued a proclamation recognizing the day during its meeting Monday. Mayor Jim Lowery said in the proclamation he encourages the citizens of Fultondale and the businesses loca…ted in the city, as well as those in surrounding communities, to “Paint Fultondale Black and White” in honor of the service members by placing black and white ribbons, balloons, wreaths and more on their doors, windows and mailboxes. Black and white banners symbolizing America’s POWs and MIAs will be flown over the White House and other national buildings and monuments as a reminder of the country’s obligation to remember the sacrifices made by the service members, according to the proclamation.
TRUSSVILLE — The Trussville City Council last week approved a proclamation that makes Friday, Sept. 19 POW/MIA Recognition Day.
The proclamation states that on that day, the stark black and white banner that symbolizes America’s missing in action and prisoners of war will be flown over the White House; U.S. Capitol; the departments of State, Defense and Veterans Affairs; the Selective Service System headquarters; and more.
A Trussville historical marker
file photo by Ron Burkett
This will be done as “a solemn reminder of our obligation always to remember the sacrifices made to defend our Nation,” the proclamation states.
The proclamation encourages all municipalities to place black and white ribbons, balloons, wreaths and other symbols on their doors, windows and mailboxes. It also encourages all Alabama citizens to dress in black and white on Sept. 19 as a show of honor and remembrance of America’s missing in action and prisoners of war.
Sept. 19 will be a day of tribute.
“…we stand beside their families, and we honor those who are held captive as prisoners of war, we will never forget their sacrifice, nor will we ever abandon our responsibility to do everything in our power to bring them home.”
Annual POW-MIA Recognition Day to be held in Cottondale, AL
The annual POW-MIA Recognition Day will be held at 2 p.m. Sept. 19 at the VFW Post 6022, 7001 University Blvd. E. in Cottondale. VFW Post 6022’s ceremony will feature the dedication of the “Missing Man” table, with place settings for one and an empty chair. Also, a local Junior ROTC color guard will present the colors, entertainer Terry Turner will sing the national anthem and other patriotic songs and “Echo Taps” will be perform by two trumpeters from the University of Alabama’s School of Music. The ceremony is free and open to the public. For more information, call the post at 205-553-8040.
POW/MIA RECOGNITION DAY STATEMENT
REMEMBER AMERICA’S POWS, MIAS AND THEIR FAMILIES
Sept. 19, POW/MIA Recognition Day, is a day to recognize the men and women who are currently listed as missing and unaccounted-for, and their families who continue to burn the candle of hope.
The VFW is dedicated to obtaining the fullest possible accounting of all of our missing and prays that all the families of the missing will one day welcome their loved ones home from war.
More than 83,000 Americans are currently listed as missing and unaccounted-for, dating back to World War II. The VFW will never rest until our nation has obtained the fullest possible accounting of all of our missing.
VFW leaders will continue to travel to Vietnam, Moscow, the People’s Republic of China and beyond to actively assist our government with the most humanitarian of all humanitarian missions.
A veteran is a veteran, regardless of the color of uniform or the flag they saluted. Now let us work together to bring closure to the families who continue to wait.
National POW/MIA Recognition Day, September 19, 2014
Air Force Sergeants Association (AFSA) Kittyhawk Chapter 751-sponsored POW/MIA Coin
Senators Introduce Bipartisan Bill Honoring POW/MIA Personnel – Bill Would Establish Commemorative Chair on U.S. Capitol Grounds
On February 27, Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Edward J. Markey (D-MA) introduced bipartisan legislation to honor America’s POW/MIA’s. The POW/MIA Commemorative Chair Act S.2053 will honor all US personnel unaccounted-for from our Nations’ past and present conflicts. The POW/MIA Commemorative Chair Act (S.2053) would direct the Architect of the Capitol to place a commemorative chair bearing the POW/MIA logo in a prominent location at the U.S. Capitol. This chair would remain unoccupied to serve as a reminder of the ongoing challenge of accounting for America’s still missing and unaccounted-for and in recognition of their sacrifices for our nation. The POW/MIA Commemorative Chair Act is supported by the National League of POW/MIA Families, and veteran’s advocacy groups such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), the American Legion, the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), and Rolling Thunder.
Follow this link: http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm to find the information to contact your Senators to engage their support for the POW/MIA Commemorative Chair Act, S.2053.
April 15, 2014
On April 15th 2014 the city of Lowell, MA will be dedicating a POW/MIA Chair just as many other Cities have done across the commonwealth. This will be a “sister City” event taking place over the course of the entire day. The event will begin at the Coffee Cann café in Lawrence at 1:00 p.m., then proceeding to the Lawrence City hall where Mayor Rivera will dedicate a duplicate chair in his City Hall at 2:30. There will then be an escort from Lawrence to the Lowell City hall at which time we will also dedicate a duplicate chair. This event will be presented through Both City Mayors offices, The Rolling Thunder motorcycle group, Veterans assisting Veterans group, and the chairs to be donated by the Lowell Spinners.
August 9th, 2014
April 27, 2014
9th Annual Sweet-Ola Ride/Auction and BBQ
Sunday April 27, 2014
Presented by Boise Valley POW/MIA Corporation, at the Triangle in Sweet, ID
All money raised will go to support the National League of POW/MIA Families to continue the fight to bring home our unreturned Veterans. Opening Ceremony starts at 1pm with presentation of POW/MIA Missing Man Table and keynote speaker Mr. Mark Stephensen, Treasurer from the National League of POW/MIA Families. Lots of nice items on the auction block. Advanced meal tickets $10 per person, or $15 the day of the event. Live and Silent Auction from 1:30-4pm. Live entertainment provided by Simple Ruckus. Until they are all home, “You Are Not Forgotten”! For more information contact 208-867-9105 or e-mail email@example.com or visit our website at www.bvpowmia.org
March 29, 2014
And the winner is….Dawn Dempsey from Dubuque, IA!
Dawn is the winner of the raffle for the Name the Character in a new book by Gerri Krotow. Dawn has decided to honor her Grandfather, Charles G. Dempsey, a navy vet from WWII, as the character name in Geri’s book. “I can not express how very excited I am about the opportunity of naming a character in your book to be released next year. I plan on purchasing a copy for all of my siblings and their children, along with all of my cousins and relatives to my grandfather for the holidays next year. This is such an honor to my family and to all veterans. “ Thanks to Geri and her editor Paula Eykelhof (Executive Editor, Harlequin/Mira Books) for the thoughtful donation of a character name to be use in the raffle. And thanks to Dawn & everyone that bought raffle chances. A Navy Christmas is due out in November 2014. To see other of Geri’s book or watch for this book to come out check out her website www.gerikrotow.com
Donate $1 to the National League of POW/MIA Families and get a chance to have your name appear as a character in NAVY CHRISTMAS, out November 2014
Geri Krotow, author of the Whidbey Island Series, is auctioning off a chance to have your name as a character in her upcoming book NAVY CHRISTMAS, out November, 2014. The raffle will start on Oct 1st, and the winner will be drawn on Dec 10th. All raffle chances must be received before Dec. 9, 2013. The drawing will be held at a Christmas POW/MIA fund-raiser in Dubuque, Iowa. The winner will be notified and mailed an autographed copy of the author’s current book, Navy Orders, donated by the author. Mail your name, address and phone number, along with $1 per chance, to Elaine Palen, POW/MIA Raffle, 2232 Suzanne Drive, Dubuque, IA 52002. For additional information, email firstname.lastname@example.org, with RAFFLE in the subject line. To see more books from Geri please check out her website at: gerikrotow.com
Complementary Tickets for Armed Forces Bowl
This is an opportunity for you, as family members of POW/MIA veterans, to receive complimentary tickets for the 2013 Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl (BHAFB) Game, being held at the Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas on December 30 2013. Bell Helicopter is one of more than 5,000 Partners of the 50th Vietnam War Anniversary Commemoration Commission, and they have graciously offered complimentary tickets to this annual televised event. By visiting their web site — http://www.armedforcesbowl.com/armed-forces-ticket-request, veterans, POW/MIA families and active duty personnel can request complimentary tickets. This event is also posted on the 50th Anniversary Vietnam War Commemoration website — www.vietnamwar50th.com.
Veterans Day 11-11-2013
Veterans Day in the Nation’s Capitol Chairman of the Board Ann Mills-Griffiths and Office Administrator Leslie Swindells (pictured in the East Wing Foyer) represented the League at the White House Veterans Day Breakfast. Yes, our POW/MIA Flag was flying proudly over the White House (see photo). In addition to veterans from WWII, Korean War, Vietnam War, 1st Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan, senior military officers and enlisted representatives of all Services and veteran organization leaders, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Secretary of Veterans Affairs General Eric Shinseki, USA (Ret), were in attendance. President Obama and Vice President Biden held a receiving/photo-op line concluding the event in time for all to reach Veterans Day ceremonies held at Arlington National Cemetery and across the region and nation. One such event, at the US Air Force Memorial, was co-hosted by the Air Force Sergeants Association (AFSA) and the Air Force Association (AFA). Keynote speaker for the event was Lt Gen Stephen L. Hoog, Assistant Vice Chief of Staff, United States Air Force, preceded by remarks provided by retired Air Force General John A. Shaud, representing AFA, and retired Master Sgt Morgan Brown, AFSA. The event was concluded with a wreath-laying ceremony and playing of Taps.
July 26th, 27th, 28th 2013: Pocatello POW*MIA Awareness Association Motorcycle Rally (Pocatello, ID)
Come out and join the Pocatello POW*MIA Awareness Association in their annual Motorcycle Rally! This year’s event features a keynote address by National League of POW/MIA Families member and Returned POW, LtCol David Gray (USAF, Ret.). Gray served as a member of the Board of Directors for 20 years, most recently as the Vice Chairman. Participate in various competitions and events and enjoy musical performances on Saturday with bands including American Hitman and Snake Bones. To learn more about the Rally, events taking place, and accommodations, visit http://powmiarodeo.org/2013-rally-home/.
June 11th – 14th 2014: National League of POW/MIA Families 45th Annual Meeting (Arlington, VA)
Each year, the League hosts an annual meeting that brings together a wide spectrum of US officials to update the POW/MIA families, veterans, and other Americans on efforts being made and recent progress on the issue. The 2014 meeting will be held at the Hilton Crystal City in Arlington, Virginia, from Thursday, June 12th through Saturday, June 15th. Registration will be done in advance with forms being sent by mail after the first of the year. Meeting credentials (name tag, materials, etc.) will be available for pick-up on June 11th after 3:30 p.m. at the Hilton Crystal City. The meeting will again feature a boutique of items donated throughout the year such as jewelry, handmade items, quilts, scrapbooks, etc. Funds raised directly benefit the League and donors will be provided a letter acknowledging their donation for tax purposes.