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Ukrainian Veterans In Tucson

By Robert Maras, With Task Force Members

The January issue of The VVA Veteran featured an article about VVA’s work in Ukraine with former Soviet advisers to learn what they know about Americans missing in Southeast Asia. Since then, VVA’s Veterans Initiative Task Force (VITF) members have recently returned from their third visit to Ukraine.

Robert Maras, the VITF Chair, and Mokie Porter, VVA Director of Communications, first traveled to Ukraine in November 2005. They did so at the request of the Pentagon’s Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO). DPMO learned of an organization of former Soviet Vietnam veterans living in Kharkiv, Ukraine, and had been working to gain their cooperation, with only limited success. DPMO officials felt that VVA’s participation would foster an atmosphere of trust and improved cooperation.

With each meeting the Ukrainian veterans continue to provide more assistance. They have provided photographs of American aircraft crash sites, extracts from war diaries, information on interrogations, and are now helping gain access to Ministry of Defense files and material concerning Soviet advisers in North Vietnam.

In May, Jack Devine, VVA National Vice President, Maras, and Porter traveled to Kharkiv to meet with Ukrainian veterans during their World War II Victory Day celebrations. At the end of the meeting, Devine and the chair of the Ukrainian Vietnam veterans’ organization signed a memorandum of understanding. This has set the foundation for a program of greater cooperation between the two organizations and peoples. The Ukrainians pledged their support and continued assistance to DPMO and VVA on POW/MIA affairs. Both sides expressed the desire to work together to improve understanding between our two nations and toward building a better world for our grandchildren.

To continue this initiative, VVA has invited several Ukrainian veterans to attend the National Leadership Conference to speak about their role in the Vietnam War and how they are helping account for the more than 1,800 American service members missing in Southeast Asia. These veterans were highly placed Soviet advisers and current faculty at a Ministry of Defense university. No One Is Forgotten; Nothing Is Forgotten, an account of the Air War in Vietnam from the Soviet position by Nikolay Shershnev, appears on page 21. Shershnev will join us in Tucson.

Although DPMO originally sought VVA’s involvement, it was unable to help finance the visits. To make this happen VITF, the Buckeye Foundation, Vietnam Veterans Peace Initiative, and Eastern New Jersey, Chapter 779 provided funding for the program. Mokie Porter paid her own way for each visit.

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