Missing In Action: How Are The Remains Of Soldiers Returned?
Host Celeste Headlee Produced by Denise Couture. Writeup by Gabrielle Healy
Arlington National Cemetery
11:47 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, everyone. Thank you very much. What an honor. Secretary Mattis --
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We love you!
THE PRESIDENT: And I love you, too. (Laughter.) General Dunford, Joint Chiefs, members of the Armed Forces, members of the Cabinet, members of Congress, and distinguished guests: Thank you for joining us on this solemn day of remembrance. We are gathered here on the sacred soil of Arlington National Cemetery to honor the lives and deeds of America’s greatest heroes: the men and women who laid down their lives for our freedom. Today, we pay tribute to their service, we mourn alongside their families, and we strive to be worthy of their sacrifice.
The heroes who rest in these hallowed fields — in the cemeteries, battlefields, and burial grounds near and far — are drawn from the full tapestry of American life. They came from every generation, from towering cities and windswept prairies, from privilege and from poverty. They were generals and privates, captains and corporals, of every race, color, and of every creed. But they were all brothers and sisters in arms. And they were all united then, as they are united now forever, by their undying love of our great country. (Applause.)
Theirs was a love more deep and more pure than most will ever know. It was a love that willed them up mountains, through deserts, across oceans, and into enemy camps and unknown dangers. They marched into hell so that America could know the blessings of peace. They died so that freedom could live.
America’s legacy of service is exemplified by a World War II veteran who joins us today — Senator Bob Dole. (Applause.) Earlier this year, I was fortunate to present a very special award to Bob — the Congressional Gold Medal. (Applause.) Bob, thank you for honoring us with your presence, and thank you for your lifetime of service to our nation.
Today, we remember your fallen comrades who never returned home from that great struggle for freedom.
We are also proud to be in the company of another American hero — Navy veteran Ray Chavez. (Applause.) At 106 years of age — (applause) — and he was in the Oval Office two days ago, and he doesn’t look a day over 60 — (laughter) — he’s the oldest living survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor. (Applause.) What a guy. And, Ray, you are truly an inspiration to all who are here today and all of our great country. Thank you, Ray, for being with us. Thank you. (Applause.)
Most importantly, we’re joined today by the families of the American heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice. We cannot imagine the depth of emotion that this day brings each year — the grief renewed, the memories re-lived, those last beautiful moments together cherished and always remembered. And you also feel that incredible pride — a pride shared by one really and truly grateful nation. (Applause.)
To every parent who weeps for a child, to every child who mourns for a parent, and to every husband or wife whose heart has been torn in two: Today we ask God to comfort your pain, to ease your sorrow, and to wipe away your tears. This is a very special day. And today, our whole country thanks you, embraces you, and pledges to you: We will never forget our heroes. (Applause.)
Joining us today is the family of Marine Lieutenant Colonel David Greene, who rests here at Arlington. (Applause.) Dave grew up in Upstate New York, dreaming of attending the United States Naval Academy. In 1982, that dream came true. Soon another dream came true when Dave met his eternal soulmate, Sarah, who is here with their two beautiful children, Jena and Wesley. (Applause.) He’s looking down on you right now. You know that, right? He’s looking down on you, and he’s so proud and happy.
After 10 years of service as a Marine helicopter pilot, Dave left active duty to spend more time with the people who truly filled his heart. Those are the people you just met. But Sarah knew the man she married — she knew he couldn’t live without serving. Couldn’t do it. So she suggested he join the services in the form of reserves, and that’s what he did.
In January 2004, Dave deployed to Iraq. That summer, just a few weeks before he was scheduled to return home, he was called in to provide air support for ground troops who were in very serious danger. They were in very serious trouble. He immediately raced to the scene. As he covered his troops, he was shot by ground fire, giving up his life for his comrades and his country.
Lieutenant Colonel Greene remains one of the highest-ranking Marines to have been killed in Iraq since 2003. But for him, it was never about rank or title. Like all of his fellow warriors, it was only about duty. He served to defend our flag and our freedom.
And now his son Wesley, who is a senior at Liberty University, plans to follow in his father’s footsteps and join the military. (Applause.) Wesley, I just want to congratulate you and your entire family. Great, great family. Thank you very much, and thank you for being here with us. (Applause.) Thank you very much. Beautiful. You’re going to love the military. These are incredible people.
We’re also honored to have with us today the family of Army Captain Mark Stubenhofer, and his wife Patty, and their children, Lauren, Justin, and Hope. (Applause.) Please. Thank you for being with us. Thank you very much. Such an honor.
Mark grew up not far from here, in Springfield, Virginia. Every year, he visited these grounds and hoped to someday serve here as a member of that very, very famous Old Guard.
In 2004, Mark deployed to Iraq for the second time. While he was there, Patty went into labor with their third child, and Mark was with her by phone when their beautiful baby girl was born. Together, they named her Hope.
Just a few months later, Mark was on a mission near Baghdad when he was tragically slain by a sniper’s bullet.
Today, Hope is 13 years old. Although she never had the chance to meet her great father, she can feel his love wrapped around her every single day. And when Patty puts her children to bed, and kisses them goodnight, she can see Mark’s legacy beaming back at her through their bright and glowing eyes. Thank you so much. (Applause.) Really beautiful. Thank you. You know that, right?
Also joining us today is a very special friend: Seven-year-old Christian Jacobs, who is here with his mom Brittany.
I met Christian exactly one year ago today. Last year, after the wreath-laying ceremony, Christian walked over to me with great confidence, shook my hand, looked me straight in the eye, and asked if I would like to meet his dad. He loved his dad — Marine Sergeant Christopher Jacobs, who died when Christian was just eight months old.
Next, Christian, looking as sharp as you could look dressed in a beautiful Marine outfit — I’ve never seen a Marine look that good in my life, Christian. (Applause.) He wanted to look good, he told me, as a tribute to his father. And he led me to his dad’s grave, and we paid our respects together. It was a moment I will always remember.
Christian, I want you to know that even though your father has left this world — he’s left it for the next — but he’s not gone. He’ll never be gone. Your dad’s love, courage, and strength live in you, Christian. And as you grow bigger and stronger, just like him, so too does your father’s incredible legacy. So thank you both. That’s so beautiful. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you, Christian. Good to see you. He’s become my friend, I will tell you. Special young man.
To every family member of the fallen, I want you to know that the legacy of those you lost does not fade with time, but grows only more powerful. Their legacy does not, like a voice in the distance, become a faint echo. But, instead, their legacy grows deeper, spreading further, touching more lives, reaching down through time and out across many generations. Through their sacrifice, your loved ones have achieved something very, very special: immortality.
Today we also remember the more than 82,000 American servicemen and women who remain missing from wars and conflicts fought over the past century. We will never stop searching for them. (Applause.) And whenever possible, we will bring them home. We pledge to remember not just on Memorial Day. We will always remember them. We will remember them every day. (Emphasis added)
Moments ago, I laid a wreath in tribute to those resting “in honored glory.” For more than 80 years, the Sentinels of the Old Guard have kept watch over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Serving in this elite unit is among the most prestigious honors in the United States military. While the rest of us sleep, while we go about our lives, through every minute, through every day, through freezing cold, scorching heat, and raging storms, they stand watch.
Even when the Earth shook beneath their feet on 9/11, and smoke from the Pentagon darkened the sky above these tree-lined hills, here they remained, faithful at their post, eternal on guard. They never moved.
The Sentinel always stands, because America never forgets it’s our heroes who make us who we are and who determine what we will be. (Applause.)
Our fallen heroes have not only written our history — they’ve shaped our destiny. They saved the lives of the men and women with whom they served. They cared for their families more than anything in the world. They love their families. They inspired their communities, uplifted their country, and provided the best example of courage, virtue, and valor the world will ever know. They fought and bled and died so that America would forever remain safe and strong and free.
Each of the markers on that field — each of the names engraved in stone — teach us what it means to be loyal and faithful and proud and brave and righteous and true.
That is why we come to this most sacred place. That is why we guard these grounds with absolute devotion. That is why we always will remember. Because here — on this soil, on these grounds, beneath those fields — lies the true source of American greatness, of American glory, and of American freedom.
As long as we are blessed with patriots such as these, we shall forever remain one people, one family, and one nation under God. (Applause.)
It’s been my great honor to be with you today. I want to thank you. May God bless the families of the fallen. May God bless the men and women who serve. And may God bless the United States of America — our great country. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you very much.
Ann Mills-Griffiths attended the Farewell Reception for H.E. Pham Quang Vin Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam to the United States of America at the Vietnam House on May 21st. Also pictured are US and Foreign officials.
In Hanoi on January 24, 2018, U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis toured Detachment 2, Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, with U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Daniel J. Kritenbrink. The agency's mission is to achieve the fullest possible accounting for US personnel still missing from the Vietnam War, now numbering 1,601.
That same day, a delegation from the National League of POW/MIA Families, headed by Chairman and CEO Ann Mills Griffiths, and a delegation from the Special Operations Association (SOA) and Special Forces Association (SFA), headed by Mike Taylor, chairman of the Joint SOA/SFA POW/MIA Committee, also visited DPAA Detachment 2 and received a Country Team briefing at the US Embassy.
The League delegation also met that same day with the chairman and members of the Vietnam Office for Seeking MIssing Persons (VNOSMP), longstanding Vietnamese interagency team tasked by the Prime Minister with managing Vietnam's POW/MIA accounting cooperation and the Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Today, the League Delegation met with senior officials in Vietnam's Ministry of National Defense, and the SOA/SFA Delegation met with Vietnamese veterans who opposed MACV-SOG operations along the Ho Chi Minh Trail during the war to enlist their assistance with resolving cases that resulted from the secret war in Laos and Cambodia.
The delegations are in Hanoi as part of a four-nation Southeast Asia visit, having already visited Thailand, Laos and Cambodia, to promote increased efforts to account for missing Americans. (DoD photo below by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)
Visit www.dvidshub.net/search?q=dpaa&view=grid to see photos of DPAA Joint Field activities and more
Both leaders reaffirmed the importance of continued cooperation to address the legacies of war. In this regard, President Quang expressed appreciation for the contribution of the United States to the successful dioxin remediation at Da Nang Airport, and welcomed the United States commitment to contribute to remediation at Bien Hoa Airport. He welcomed further United States assistance for persons with disabilities. President Trump expressed his appreciation for Vietnam’s full and continued cooperation in accounting for United States personnel still missing from the war, and pledged to cooperate with Vietnam in its efforts to locate its missing soldiers. The two leaders committed to cooperation in the removal of remnants of explosives from the war.
Kelly McKeague, the Director of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, shown being sworn in Tuesday 9-5-17 during a ceremony at the Pentagon
McKeague, who retired from the U.S. Air Force in 2016 at the rank of major general, served as the DPAA Deputy Director and as the Commander of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, one of the entities merged in 2015 to form the Department’s newest defense agency.
"I know the importance of the agency's mission and I look forward to working with DPAA's team of dedicated professionals,” said McKeague.
Fern Sumpter Winbush, who has been serving as Acting Director, will resume her role as Principal Deputy Director for the agency, responsible for formulating policy, overseeing business development, and increasing outreach initiatives.
“My time serving as the Acting Director has been challenging and rewarding as I worked to move the agency forward in our mission of providing the fullest possible accounting of U.S. personnel missing from past conflicts to the families and the nation,” said Winbush. “As an agency, we have accomplished much over the last two years, and I am confident the incoming Director will take over an agency postured for continued success.”
McKeague, who served as an independent business consultant since his military retirement, says he is looking forward to this opportunity.
"I am humbled and blessed to serve on behalf of the families whose loved ones served our country,” he said. “The fulfillment of this agency's solemn obligation is my honor to endeavor."
A native of Hawaii, McKeague began his military career in 1981 as a civil engineering officer, serving in a variety of assignments at base, major command and Headquarters U.S. Air Force levels. In 1995, he entered the Maryland Air National Guard and served on active duty as a civil engineer. His assignments include the Air National Guard Readiness Center, followed by legislative liaison tours at the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force and the National Guard Bureau. He also served as the Chief of Staff, National Guard Bureau and Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for National Guard Matters.
Kelli’s Heroes: Support for missing in action strongBy Kelli Germeraad
Wednesday, August 23, 2017
Every cause, every issue must have advocates whose passion, conviction and determination will keep that issue in the public eye and create awareness and understanding of why it matters.
For 47 years, the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing from Southeast Asia has been the determined voice of those still missing from the Vietnam War. In addition to being the driving force behind the full accounting and repatriations of all recoverable remains, the members of the League have been an active part of ensuring that the funding, staff and resources have been part of the Department of Defense’s budget. They make sure that the promises of ‘leaving no one’ behind are kept.
The painstaking and complex recovery efforts can take months, sometimes years. Add to the obstacles, the ever present political football of this issue, one need only review past budgets for the continued recovery process which in many years have been nonexistent. The Defense POW-MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), which has the full responsibility of overseeing the identification and recovery efforts, has been racked with poor leadership, no leadership and is severely underfunded.
With the successes and advocacy of the National League of Families, other organizations have also formed to demand accounting of their loved ones in an effort to repatriate the remains of our service members from World War II and Korea. If it were not for the continued efforts of the families of those who are missing, so many would have been left behind. Congress, this is one commitment whose funding has not be adequately addressed, and it is time to give the POW-MIA issue the full funding it needs to get the job done. Bring home those whose families still wait.
National POW-MIA Recognition Day is annually held on the third Friday in September, this year it will be held on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. The Air Force Sergeants Association on Travis Air Force Base will once again host a 24-hour Remembrance Run, which will take place on Travis at the Blue Fitness track starting at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 14 and run through Friday, Sept. 15.
Runners will carry the American Flag as well as the POW flag throughout the duration of the run. At 1 p.m. on Friday, a recognition ceremony will be held in front of wing headquarters at the base flag pole and will honor former prisoners of war as well as those still listed as missing in action.
The run and the ceremony are open to anyone with access to Travis AFB. Your continued attendance and support of this very important day and the issue it represents let’s the families of America’s service members know that their loved ones are not forgotten.
For more information or to sign up for the run, contact MSgt.Marcus Hewitt at 424-7804 or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or TSgt. Jason Jessee via email: Jason.email@example.com .
For information on the efforts of the National League of Families visit: http://www.pow-miafamilies.org
The author is a local advocate for veterans’ issues. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Far Side cartoons, Ansel Adams landscapes, underwater dogs — so cliche. Why settle for a humdrum wall calendar in 2017 when you can track your days with CIA paintings showing agency operatives stealing secrets, killing off enemies or even getting killed themselves?
January features a painting of a CIA contractor firing an AK-47 out of an Air America chopper onto a North Vietnamese biplane. Flip to April for “The First Sting,” depicting a CIA-trained Afghan mujahideen striking Soviet helicopters with a Stinger missile. End 2017 on a high note: December features the famous Glomar Explorer in 1974 recovering a portion of a Soviet submarine teeming with secrets from the depths of the Pacific Ocean.
The inaugural “Secret Ops of the CIA” calendar was produced by the nephew of an agency contractor killed in the line of duty and features reproductions of the actual paintings that have hung for years inside the hallways of the CIA headquarters in Northern Virginia. Yes, the CIA has an official art collection, although you can’t just drive up to the agency to check it out.
But for as little as the cost of about a week’s worth of coffee, you can adorn your kitchen wall with prints of genuine CIA artwork showing clandestine missions from World War II to Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
U.S. – Russia Joint Commission Continues to Search in Russia for Information on Missing American Military Personnel
Story by Henry Eastman, DPAA Historian
DPAA through its Joint Commission Support Division (JCSD), and in support of the U.S-Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIAs (USRJC), conducts research, analysis and investigation in Russia on U.S. personnel missing from past wars. Much of this work deals with material collected from Russian archives, interviews with Soviet/Russian veterans, and field investigations.
The USRJC was established in 1992 by Presidents George H.W. Bush and Boris Yeltsin as a forum through which both nations seek to determine the fates of their missing service personnel.
Beginning in 1992, U.S. analysts have had access to many important Russian governmental archives for research on past conflicts including the Central Archives of the Ministry of Defense (TsAMO) in Podolsk, Russia—the largest military archive in Europe. However, a period of decreased cooperation started in 2006 when access to TsAMO was curtailed. Access was restored after U.S. President Obama and Russian President Medvedev officially reestablished the presidential status of the USRJC in July 2009 through an exchange of diplomatic notes. The Presidents also reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening bilateral cooperation on POW/MIA issues. Air Force General Robert H. “Doc” Foglesong (retired) has served as Chairman of the U.S. Side since April 2006. On the Russian Side, General-Colonel (retired) Valery A. Vostrotin was appointed the Chairman by President Putin in July 2014.
The USRJC had met in plenary session 19 times between 1992 and 2005. This was followed by a period of 11 years where there were no plenary sessions. Therefore, despite the tensions in US-Russian relations, both sides recognized the need to hold a plenary meeting of the USRJC. Planning began in earnest after the initial meeting of Generals Foglesong and Vostrotin in Moscow in November 2015. The DPAA Director at that time, Mr. Michael Linnington, followed up with a visit to Moscow in February 2016 to discuss the forthcoming plenum. JCSD then hosted a Russian delegation for further planning in April, and, at long last, the 20th Plenum of the USRJC was held at the Pentagon Conference Center in May of this year.
Gen. John W. Vessey Jr., a soldier’s soldier who lied about his age to enlist in the service, won his commission on a battlefield in World War II and became a four-star general and then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Reagan administration, died Thursday night at his home in North Oaks, Minn. He was 94.
His death was confirmed by his daughter, Sarah Vessey Krawczyk.
When his military career was finally over in 1985 — after the wars and killing, the medals and promotions, the White House meetings on defense and nuclear strategies, and the 46 years that had made him the nation’s longest-serving active soldier — General Vessey did not quietly fade away.
Instead, in retirement, he went back to Vietnam repeatedly, as a special envoy of Presidents Ronald Reagan, George Bush and Bill Clinton, to find out what had happened to the hundreds of Americans listed as prisoners of war or missing in action since 1975, when North Vietnam defeated United States-backed South Vietnam.
The fate of the P.O.W./M.I.A.s has been one of the most divisive and troubling legacies of the war.
General Vessey’s breakthrough talks with Hanoi in 1988 led to on-the-ground searches by Pentagon teams that uncovered the remains of about 900 American military personnel over the next two decades, and to official conclusions that no American prisoners were still being held in Vietnam, though hundreds of cases remain unresolved, a source of continuing political controversy and grief for families.
Far from a West Point or Annapolis man, the future general was a Minneapolis high school boy, not quite 17, when he slipped past recruiters (minimum age was 18) and joined the Minnesota National Guard in 1939. His Army infantry unit was activated in 1941, months before America’s entry into World War II.
By 1943, he was a first sergeant fighting in North Africa. His unit took a strategic hill in the American drive to seize the Tunisian port of Bizerte. Allied victories there and at Tunis proved critical to the defeat of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel in North Africa.
A year later, as American troops clung to the Italian beachhead at Anzio in some of the war’s bloodiest fighting, the sergeant and two other noncoms in his unit won battlefield commissions as second lieutenants. They were dispatched as forward observers; within days one was dead and the other seriously wounded.
After the war, he served in Germany, a Cold War hot spot, and in Korea, though not during the Korean War.
He next saw action in Vietnam in 1966 and 1967. He was wounded and won a Distinguished Service Cross for defending a firebase that was partly overrun by Vietcong, the Communist insurgents in the south. The invaders were so close that he and his men had to depress their howitzer barrels and fire point blank into the onrushing enemy ranks.
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