A publication of Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc. ®
An organization chartered by the U.S. Congress

April 2000/May 2000

Veterans Initiative Task Force Report

An Historic And Valuable Program

By TomCorey, Vice President

A Veterans Initiative Task Force delegation arrived in Vietnam February 21 and departed March 9, after another successful mission. Joining the delegation were members of the VVA Agent Orange/Dioxin Committee who attended several meetings with the VI team.

At our 1999 National Convention in Anaheim, the delegates overwhelmingly supported the Veterans Initiative, as they have at previous conventions. The Task Force was given direction by the delegates who reaffirmed the effort that "urges all Vietnam veterans to turn over any information that may be available on Vietnamese war dead to the national office of VVA."

As on all previous trips, we returned to Vietnam with information on missing Vietnamese we received from VVA members. We turned the information over to the Vietnamese Ministry of Defense (MOD) and gave copies to our counterpart, the Veterans Association of Vietnam (VAV), and other interested parties. MOD informed us that they have recovered remains of more than 800 based on the grave-site information provided to them from American veterans.

In all of our meetings we continue to discuss ways of increasing our efforts to locate missing from both sides. The Vietnamese understand that, as former military personnel, we have a responsibility to account for all Americans left behind after the war. At every level, the Vietnamese have pledged to further their efforts to locate witnesses who may have information on our POWs and MIAs. They have asked us to express their gratitude to American veterans for helping them and have asked VVA to continue to seek more information on missing Vietnamese.

We continue to take unresolved American cases for further discussion and investigation. We have reached an agreement with both the Vietnamese and Lao governments to increase unilateral, bilateral, and trilateral efforts, to allow JFAs more time on sites when needed, and to expand their witness and oral history programs.

We have again been advised by U.S. Ambassador Douglas "Pete" Peterson, his staff, the Joint Task Force-Full Accounting (JTF-FA), and Vietnamese officials that our face-to-face presence and the information we have provided on missing Vietnamese have encouraged witnesses to come forward with new information on missing Americans. This is how we judge the success of the VI--not by keeping a count of American remains that have been recovered and returned. Based on comments by everyone involved in Vietnam and here in the United States, the Veterans Initiative is producing results.

We have a responsibility to those who remain missing, but--just as important--we have a responsibility to the families who still wait for answers. As we continue to live up to our responsibility, we can honestly tell the families that we are working to find the answers, where they exist, in Vietnam.

Our thanks go to those who have participated in and supported this historic and valuable program, which is now in its sixth year. We need to continue to gather and return information to the Vietnamese on their missing because it is as important and meaningful to Vietnamese family members as it is to American family members.

As team leader, I want to thank those who have taken part in these delegations, helping to fulfill VVAs mission. I would not be able to lead these delegations without their invaluable assistance. I also want to thank those who provided the funding for Janet Alheit and myself for these trips.

Please join in our effort towards the fullest possible accounting of those who remain missing from the Vietnam War. You or a friend may have the information that will lead to the resolution of this issue for both sides.

Note: The full trip report was sent to all chapters and state councils in the national office mailing.

   

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