Good afternoon Madam Chair, Ranking Member Wilson, and distinguished
Members of the Military Subcommittee on Personnel, Committee on Armed
Services. Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) appreciates the opportunity
to present our views for the Record on improving recovery and full
accounting of POW/MIA personnel from all past conflicts.
Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) has worked toward resolution of
the POW/MIA issue for more than 30 years -- since our founding in
1978 -- aiming for the fullest possible accounting of all POW/MIAs.
In fact, as we note every year in our annual testimony before the
joint hearing of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committee,
the fullest humanly possible resolution of the fate of our POW/MIAs
continues to be the highest priority of our organization. VVA pursues
that priority by advocating for and monitoring government-to-government
efforts, raising public awareness, and calling upon private persons
and groups to come forward with any information they had that might
shed light upon individual cases.
VVA has a national POW/MIA Affairs Committee required by its constitution,
as well as active state and chapter committees. These committees
are the core of an integrated effort that has put POW/MIA flags above
public buildings across America, has shared information with every
other POW/MIA organization in the country, has let members of Congress
and the President know that this priority is strong and alive. Our
regular national publication, The VVA Veteran, updates all VVA members
on POW/MIA issues.
VVA began POW/MIA missions abroad in 1981, to convince Vietnam of
the commitment of American veterans to the fullest possible accounting.
Against the urging of several U.S. government agencies, VVA leaders
first discussed POW/MIA issues with Vietnam in 1981 and with Vietnam
and Cambodia in 1989 during a humanitarian visit. Both trips contributed
to POW/MIA talks being opened by those respective countries with
the U.S. government. VVA has also taken part in presidential and
congressional trips. As early as 1982, VVA was instrumental in the
return of the remains of POW/MIAs. Vietnam’s foreign minister
said Vietnam would work with VVA on POW/MIA and Agent Orange issues.
In 1985, Vietnam asked VVA leaders to visit Hanoi every three months
to work on issues. While we have not been able meet that request,
we have sent delegations approximately once per year to pursue the
VVA “Veterans’ Initiative” program.
Today there are 1,742 missing and unaccounted for since the end
of the Vietnam War in 1975; 1,334 in Vietnam, 343 in Laos, 57 in
Cambodia and 7 in PRC territorial waters. 90% of the 1,742 that are
still missing from the Vietnam War were lost in Vietnam or in areas
of Laos and Cambodia under Vietnam’s wartime control.
We believe that Congress must exercise close oversight to ensure
that the maximum effort is made to secure the release of any American
who might still be held captive, and to recover the remains of those
who have perished.
Madam Chair, every President since President Gerald Ford has noted
that the Nation’s highest priority is the fullest possible
accounting for our Missing in Action (MIAs), whether they be Prisoners
of War or that this activity be recovery of remains, and returning
these remains to American soil. In any case, resolution for the families
involved is essential. We urge this distinguished Subcommittee to
ensure that the resources are there to do the job right. The Joint
POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) budget for 2006 fell about $3.6
million short and caused the cancellation and scaling back of many
investigative and recovery operations. VVA requests that JPAC funding
be a mandatory single line item budget in the FY2010 budget, just
as the Defense Intelligence Agency's (DIA) Stoney Beach Team is,
so that these accounting operations don’t have to compete with
other funding priorities within DOD.
VVA also recommends that United States government continue to press
the Vietnamese government to increase its unilateral efforts, and
to demonstrate greater cooperation by facilitating follow-up of live
sighting reports, expanding its participation in joint remains recovery
efforts, opening its wartime archives, and helping to locate Vietnamese
citizens and soldiers who witnessed incidents of loss. VVA further
urges that you request that the President of the United States continue
to press the Vietnamese government, as a matter of highest priority,
for the fullest possible accounting of POW/MIAs lost in the Vietnam
War, utilizing both joint and unilateral activities. Specifically,
we have called for the highest priority of effort to be focused on
the accounting for
Any American POW/MIAs who may still be alive in Southeast Asia and
held against their will; and
Those last known alive or known to have died in captivity.
Needless to say, VVA also believes that the accounting for and return
of the remains of American soldiers believed to have been killed
in action without their bodies being recovered must also be treated
as a priority matter and aggressively pursued. We also strongly urge
similar efforts with the governments of Laos and Cambodia.
VVA continues to seek the fullest possible accounting of the status
of any American service member who had been a Prisoner of War or
had been declared Missing in Action (or, in current terminology,
DUSTWUN: “Duty Status Whereabouts Unknown” for the wars
in Afghanistan and Iraq). While we appreciate the efforts of the
United States government to search for remains of our troops in Southeast
Asia, we advocate for an increase in funding to fund additional teams
so as to speed up the searches. In addition, efforts on the Korean
peninsula and with China must continue insofar as we are able to
engage on this issue with those governments.
We know of certain individuals, sons of servicemen missing or killed
in action whose bodies have never been recovered yet for whom the
locations of their demise is known, who have been told that it will
be years before teams of searchers can get to these sites. Why? Because
there are scores of other sites that have been identified and have
This isn’t right. There is still too much pain from the Vietnam
War that is felt, daily, by the families of those who have never
returned. Additional teams in both Vietnam and Laos can go a long
way towards speeding up the process of discovery and exploration,
to include revisiting sites already visited once to be sure that
all possibilities have been exhausted.
Additionally, VVA shall continue to press to have all government
documents pertaining to POW/MIAs from Vietnam and earlier conflicts
are declassified and released for public inspection this year. Certainly,
after almost 35 years since the end of the war in Vietnam, any assertion
that our national security will be compromised by taking this declassification
action simply strains credulity to the limits.
VVA also seeks a public awareness program to be implemented by the
Department of Defense to inform families of those still listed as
POW/MIA of the need to provide DNA samples for potential identification
of their loved ones whose remains might be recovered years from now.
VVA shall encourage Congress to pass a resolution urging the government
of Vietnam to provide all relevant wartime records on American POW/MIAs,
and to renew calls for Vietnam to make all possible efforts to help
us to recover and repatriate all remains of service members still
unaccounted for in Vietnam.
We also advocate removing the proprietary “ownership” of
individual organizations and agencies from the effort to recover
remains and learn of the fate of those who were known to have been
captured but never returned home. VVA and the VFW, for instance,
have nearly identical programs like the one we call the “Veterans
Initiative.” While VVA started our program first, when the
VFW asked if we objected to them doing the same or a similar effort,
we said please do all you can. We are all on the same mission. The
only difference is that the VVA takes our effort to the provinces
personally, on visits as often as we can manage, not just to the
central government in Hanoi. While there are many different approaches
to the mission, the mission remains the same, and a unified effort
would be more powerful and productive than the splintered approach
that we see with all the many “POW organizations.”
Perhaps more important, we (collectively and our government) need
to concentrate more on developing relationships between our nation
and the countries of Southeast Asia. These relationships should be
on a person-to-person basis, one veteran or one citizen to another.
Organizations should promote visitations between people and spend
less time on catering to the “I-can’t-forget –the-war
groups.” VVA has consistently stated for the past decade that
without the fullest possible accounting of all of our service members
the Vietnam War, America's longest, is not over. We do acknowledge
that Vietnam has made some serious efforts to assist our government
in achieving the fullest possible accounting for our Southeast Asia
POW/MIAs. Nonetheless, we still earnestly believe that the Vietnamese
government can, and must, do more. Similarly, our government can,
and must, do more.
In closing we would like to thank the efforts and sacrifice that
the men and women of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command and its
predecessors; the JCRC, JTF-FA, CIL-HI, and Stony Beach have made
in the pursuit of the fullest possible accounting of our Prisoners
of War and Missing in Action.
Few Americans are aware of the difficulty and danger involved in
the pursuit of the organizations mission – the collection of
information, investigation, physical recovery, identification, and
return of our missing service members from not only the Vietnam War
but also from past and current military actions. Theirs has been
an ongoing mission of the highest priority since before the official
end of the war in Southeast Asia. Committed to their motto, “Until
They are Home,” the men and women of JPAC perform their duties
to the highest professional standards, even when confronted with
the potential dangers involved.
Madam Chair and members of the Subcommittee on Personnel, thank
you for the opportunity to present our views for the record.
VIETNAM VETERANS OF AMERICAPRIVATE
April 2, 2009
The national organization Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) is
a non-profit veterans' membership organization registered as a 501(c)
(19) with the Internal Revenue Service. VVA is also appropriately
registered with the Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the
House of Representatives in compliance with the Lobbying Disclosure
Act of 1995.
VVA is not currently in receipt of any federal grant or contract,
other than the routine allocation of office space and associated
resources in VA Regional Offices for outreach and direct services
through its Veterans Benefits Program (Service Representatives).
This is also true of the previous two fiscal years.
For Further Information, Contact:
Executive Director of Policy and Government Affairs
Vietnam Veterans of America
(301) 585-4000, extension 127
GARY PALMER JONES
Gary Palmer Jones was elected as Chair of VVA National POW/MIA Committee
in 2007 our 13th National Convention. He served as Commissioned Officer
in the US Navy from 1964-1969 and in 1968-1969 was Officer in Charge,
Naval Support Activity Detachment Dong Ha, and Republic of South
He has received numerious awards including the Navy and Marine Corps
Medal for Heroism; Navy Commendation Medal with Combat Distinguishing
Device; Navy Unit Citation Ribbon; National Defense Service Medal;
Vietnam Campaign Medal; Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm and
Vietnam Service Medal.
Mr. Jones earned his BS degree in geology, from the University of
Washington, in Seattle and is also a 1966 graduate from the US Naval
Engineering School in San Diego, California.
He lives in Saint Louisville, Ohio where he is very active in his
community and veterans affairs.