Monday, May 29, 2006

Memorial Day Weekend ---- Post #4

The Long Wait for the Long Journey Homeward

Imagine having someone you love die in a war on a foreign shore -- but they are only presumed dead...imagine the waiting, the never knowing. This is reality for many families of veterans. I recently read about the amazing government organization that seeks out the remains of military and attempts to repatriate them and notify families. They are actively doing this for wars even as far back as WWI.

The Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), located on the island of Oahu in Hawaii, was activated on Oct. 1, 2003. JPAC's mission is to achieve the fullest possible accounting of all Americans missing as a result of our nation's previous conflicts. Their highest priority is the return of any living Americans that remain prisoners of war.

The effort is extensive. If you know ANYONE who lost a loved one who was in the military and who still does not know their precise fate, or have the closure of a burial, please have them look at this part of the site that discusses DNA matching. There are THOUSANDS of service men and women waiting to be identified.

Here is an excerpt from the site about the efforts that are undertaken.

JPAC has 18 recovery teams - ten teams dedicated to those missing from the war in Southeast Asia, five teams dedicated to the Korean War missing and three teams to recovering missing Americans from World War II, the Cold War and the Gulf War.
A typical recovery team size is 10 to 14 personnel, and is commanded by the team leader. His command group includes a team sergeant (typically an Army sergeant first class trained in the field of mortuary affairs) and a forensic anthropologist (the only civilian team member) who oversees the scientific aspects of the recovery.
Additional team members include a linguist, medic, life support technician, forensic photographer, explosive ordnance disposal technician, and several mortuary affairs specialists. As the mission dictates, the teams will be augmented with mountaineering specialists, communication technicians and mechanics.
Standard recovery missions range from 35 to 60 days depending on the location, terrain and recovery methods...Teams walk through jungles, traverse difficult terrain in 4 x 4 vehicles, rappel cliff-sides, hike mountains and glaciers, ride on horseback, in boats, or trains to reach sites. The most common method of reaching remote sites is via helicopter. Teams travel with up to 10,000 pounds in survival and excavation equipment, making transport difficult.

I know the odds are slight that any of you know people still waiting for word...but if you do, perhaps this can help. I know a family who heard in the mid 60's that their father had been shot down over Vietnam and had been seen parachuting behind enemy lines. For years and years the family did not know his fate, as he had been reported as seen in a POW camp. He was MIA until his remains were repatriated in the late 1990's. It was only then that the family had closure. Please join your prayers with mine for these families who wait.


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