This report reflects my personal
findings, observations, and conclusions about the September
Veterans Initiative Task Force trip. All questions, comments,
and reactions should be directed to me.
As stated in the VVA Constitution, "The POW/MIA Committee
shall seek, receive, and disseminate information on the
POW/MIA issue to the National Board of Directors, State
Councils, Chapters, POW/MIA families and friends, and VVA
members as called upon."
I had great expectations for what I would find on the trip.
Most importantly, I wanted to see for myself just how sincere
the Vietnamese were about helping to obtain the fullest
possible accounting for our POW/MIAs from the war in Southeast
The only way I could come close to being convinced was by
sitting across the table from the Vietnamese veterans,
remembering that they were once enemies, and watching their
body language, attention to the issue at hand, andmost
importantlytheir eye contact. Then and only then would I be
able to see for myself what all the trips by the VITF to
Vietnam in the past ten years had accomplished, and if the
trips have resulted in better cooperation by the Vietnamese
The material presented to them on this trip contained enough
information to identify an additional 501 of their own,
bringing the total to date to more than 8,100. Thanks to all
the American veterans who have turned in information to VVA.
This trip convinced me that all the trips have paid off,
either directly or indirectly, in the recovery of our missing,
and have resulted in bringing closure to family members who
have waited decades.
The day after our arrival in Hanoi, the team met with Joint
Task Force-Full Accounting (JTF-FA). Meeting with them is an
essential part of our mission, because it allows us to obtain
first-hand and up-to-date information on repatriation cases,
the pursuit of Last-known Alive cases, Live Sightings, and the
findings of witness that may shed light on crash sites, grave
sites, and remains of missing Americans in Vietnam, Cambodia,
The last thing we did before leaving our meeting with JPAC was
to present to the Detachment Commander a plaque with the names
of the Americans and Vietnamese killed in the April 2001
During this trip, VVA President Tom Corey attended a
repatriation ceremony. He escorted four sets of remains onto
We went to the U.S. Embassy to meet with Amb. Raymond
Burghardt and briefed him on the most recent successes of the
Veterans Initiative and on our ten years of continuous effort
to account for the missing.
We met with the Vietnamese Office for Seeking Missing Persons,
the authority that coordinates Joint Field Activities along
with JPAC. We discussed the issue of the travel restrictions
in the Central Highlands. We were assured that there was an
ongoing process to relax such restrictions. Once again,
Tom Corey raised the issue of the importance of allowing U.S.
Navy vessels to assist in over-water recovery efforts.
We also met with the leaders of the Veterans Association of
Vietnam. We presented General Thuy with with a certificate
recognizing the contribution of Vietnamese and American
witnesses in the effort to recover the remains of A lot of
good information was passed back and forth with the help of
the interpreters. I found the meeting's atmosphere very
friendly, exactly as I hoped it would be. Some of the comments
were directed to me as the POW/MIA chair. The group leader and
I agreed that there was a need to continue a program of
education. Several times during the meeting I had to stop and
remember that these were former enemies I was talking to.
In my opinion, both groups were at the meeting for one purpose
and one purpose only: to do what it takes as veterans to
provide closure for all families.
To our surprise and delight, there was great interest in what
we were doing. Shortly after the meeting started, members of
the Hanoi press corps showed up. They paid attention to every
detail of the meeting and afterwards spent a lot of time
The last meeting in Hanoi was with a delegation from the
Ministry of Defense (MOD). This was an important meeting, in
my opinion. I figured if we saw sincerity at the higher
levels, we would surely see it at lower levels. I figured
right, because I saw everything I was looking for all over
Vietnam. The meeting with MOD far exceeded my expectations.
Before we left the meeting the Minister was presented with the
original documents containing information about 501Vietnamese
We traveled south to Hue, Danang, and Ho Chi Minh City where
we met with the People's Committee and the Vietnamese
Association of Veterans. As we did in Hanoi, we presented
information on the 501 additional MIAs and held discussions
relating to the issue of the missing from both sides.
I hope those who read this report will come away with a better
understanding of what the VITF has achieved over the past ten
years. Keep in mind it is because of our desire to return
items to help the Vietnamese obtain closure for their MIA
families that these trips are made. VVA members believe what
they are doing is the right thing, and what they do has a
direct or indirect effect on providing closure for the
families of our MIAs. I can now say I have seen first hand
what they have done and are doing. They should all be
commended for what they do. What has been accomplished has
been noticed and complimented on by government agencies,
family members, elected leaders, and other veterans service
organizations. As usual, VVA has taken the lead and others