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March/april 2010

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POW/MIA Affairs


As for the progress on the Resolutions pertaining to the POW/MIA Committee, I invite your attention to the January-February issue of The VVA Veteran. In continuation of that, I want to mention some of the effort that goes into a mission trip to Vietnam—or elsewhere, for that matter. We are fine tuning our March 10 trip, and we may be in country when you read this.

It begins with hours of effort in gathering, investigating, documenting, and preparing a case file for each incident. Jim Lyons and Mokie Porter do a lot of this work. As of our last trip, we had 287 cases on file. The team makes contact with our sponsors in Hanoi: the Viet Nam/USA Society, which is a branch of the Vietnam Union of Friendship Organizations. Approval for a working visa is produced by them, sent to the embassy in Washington, and the team members send in applications for their visas.

We don’t know in advance if or when we will have case files to deliver, or whether we will have new witnesses or specially talented people like Steve Hiller, who was on our last trip, or Dan Tucker, who will be on this trip. So we make sure adequate funding is available. That sometimes takes extra effort on our part to raise outside revenue.

Domestic and overseas air travel is coordinated for each team member and the tickets are purchased as early as possible to get affordable seats. Meanwhile, we are proposing and fine tuning itineraries with our Vietnam friends, JPAC, and State Department personnel. It is not an easy task to get everyone on the same page. In-country travel by land and air, as well as lodging, must be arranged early.

Meetings are arranged with all of our contacts throughout the trip. This March trip will be one of our shorter ones, lasting eighteen days. In that time we will travel about sixty-five hours; hold twenty-six formal meetings; visit three field sites, including one of our own JFAs; and travel by land and air from Hanoi to Hue, Quang Tri Province, Khe Sanh, FSB Tomahawk, Da Nang, and Ho Chi Minh City. On rest days, we will work on our team evaluations and reports.

Long before departure, our team members get their health needs updated, pack, arrange finances, and work on their unique roles. While in country, our hosts proudly take us to see many culturally fascinating places. This cultural diplomacy generates friendships and understandings. We do the same thing with our foreign visitors when we have the opportunity to display America.

Upon return to the United States, it takes most of us a couple of weeks to recover from the effort and to adjust to the twelve-hour difference. I don’t know about the others, but I think I’m really getting older.

Well done, all team members—past, present, and future.

The POW/MIA Affairs Committee: Gary Jones, Chair; Grant Coates, Vice Chair. Members: Jack Devine, Al Cummings, Darrol L. Brown, Bill Duker, James Kuschel, Michael Marks, Bob Johnston, Bob Maras, Patty Darwin, and Lee Fisher. AVVA: Kaye Gardner. Staff Advisors: Sharon Hodge and Mokie Porter.



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