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

October 2001/November 2001

POW/MIA Committee Report

Hoisting the Torch High

By Bruce Linnell, Chair

We have a new VVA administration to help hoist high the torch of veterans' issues and carry itforward to enlighten the citizens, bureaucrats, and politicians of our country. One of the least-known and least-understood issues is that of America's POW/MIAs and their families. It will be our purpose as the national POW/MIA Committee to dispel ignorance, increase awareness, and make it an issue felt by as many more people as we possibly can.

This will involve strong communications between the different levels of VVA and between each level and the environment in which it functions. We want to know what chapters are doing within their communities. We want to be able to easily share that information with other chapters so they, too, can increase their community involvement and community awareness. For state councils, communications will be much the same as for chapters, except for statewide programs that need to be shared with other states. State council chairs will be asked to insure that there will be a VVA presence when one or more of our own is returned from Southeast Asia.

The Committee was pleased to learn that at a recent solemn ceremony at Hanoi's Noi Bai airport, U.S. military personnel brought the remains of five American servicemen in aluminum caskets draped with the American flag aboard a U.S. military transport aircraft. The remains were flown to the U.S. military's Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii for analysis.

In other news, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) in mid-September set up a new POW/MIA unit working apart from the Defense POW Missing Persons Office, known as DPMO. The new "standing group'' will be made up of intelligence analysts. It was created under pressure from Congress to focus on POW issues in both peacetime and wartime and, a Pentagon spokesman said, ``was accelerated as a result of'' the September 11 attacks.

The new unit will begin by focusing on cases such as U.S. Navy pilot Lt. Cmdr. Michael S. Speicher, who was listed as killed in the Gulf War after his F-18 fighter was shot down. Evidence that Speicher may have survived prompted the Pentagon to reclassify him as MIA. The unit also will work on MIA issues in Afghanistan and other areas of Southwest Asia. The unit will gather and analyze intelligence that could be used to find and rescue any missing military personnel.

According to the Department of Defense, there are still 1,956 Americans missing and unaccounted for from the Vietnam War: 1,473 in Vietnam, 415 in Laos, 60 in Cambodia, and 8 in the China's territorial waters. Of the total number, roughly 90 percent were lost in areas under Vietnam's wartime control.

Has anyone else noticed the declining number of POW/MIA window stickers in cars these days?

My guess is that cars from the days when POW/MIA awareness was more widespread are pretty much gone. Many, if not most, of the owners never replaced the stickers. Get some for your chapter. Hand them out often. Awareness has to be built one person at a time.

   

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