POW/MIA UPDATE: May 17, 2017

AMERICANS RECENTLY ACCOUNTED FOR: On March 28th, DPAA statistics listed three Marines as recently accounted for: Capt John A. House of NY, Cpl Glyn L. Runnels, Jr., of AL, and LCpl John D. Killen, II, of IA. All were listed KIA/BNR on June 30, 1967, South Vietnam. Their remains were recovered in June, 2012, and identification was authorized on December 22, 2015. On March 7th, DPAA released an announcement that Capt Daniel W. Thomas, USAFR, listed MIA July 6, 1971, South Vietnam, had been accounted for. Remains were recovered by a Vietnamese Unilateral Recovery Team (URT) in August, 2014, and identified in August, 2015, as those of Maj Donald G. Carr, USA, the other person in the OV-10A piloted by Capt Thomas. Later recovery efforts by the URT and repatriation of additional remains and material in April, 2016, brought the more recent ID of Capt Thomas. DPAA also listed on its website the accounting for Col William E. Campbell, USAF, listed MIA in Laos January 29, 1969, remains recovered April 17, 2014, and identified August 29, 2016. On February 22nd, DPAA announced the ID of Capt Robert R. Barnett, USAF, listed KIA/BNR on April 7, 1966, while piloting a B-57B over Laos. His remains were recovered June 18, 2015, and identified August 16, 2016. Earlier this year, 1st Lt William C. Ryan, USMCR, was the first person since June of 2016 announced as accounted for from the Vietnam War. He was listed KIA/BNR in Laos on May 11, 1969, remains recovered January 27, 2016, and identified December 7, 2016.

The number still missing and otherwise unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War is now 1,611. Let’s hope these are the first of many announced in 2017, though most had long ago been identified. Of the 1,611 still missing (POW/MIA) and unaccounted-for (KIA/BNR), 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia or Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,258 (VN-463, VS-795); Laos-297; Cambodia-49; PRC territorial waters-7. These country-specific numbers fluctuate when investigations result in changes to loss locations. Since formation in 1970, the League has sought the return of all POWs, the fullest possible accounting for the missing, and repatriation of all recoverable remains. The total accounted for since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is now 972. Following is a breakdown by country of the 972 Americans accounted for since the April 30, 1975 end of the Vietnam War: Vietnam – 661, Laos – 268, Cambodia – 40, and the PRC – 3. In addition, 63 US personnel were accounted for between 1973 and 1975, for a grand total of 1,035. Of the 63, 9 were from Laos, 53 from Vietnam, and 1 from Cambodia. These Americans were accounted for by unilateral US efforts in areas where access was possible, not due to cooperation with the post-war governments of Vietnam, Laos or Cambodia. Added together, a total of 277 have been recovered and identified from Laos, 714 from Vietnam, 41 from Cambodia and 3 from the PRC.

IMPORTANT REALIZATION: Symbolizing international acceptance, January 8-11th trilateral defense-related talks in Da Nang that included Laos, Vietnamese Defense Minister General Ngo Xuan Lich thanked the Cambodian Government for supporting Vietnam’s “search for and repatriation of the remains of Vietnamese volunteer soldiers and experts who’d sacrificed their lives in Cambodia” and agreed with Cambodian Defense Minister Tea Banh to continue this cooperation.

URGENT NOTICE REGARDING DPAA WEBSITE: In early May, DPAA’s website was inadvertently carrying inaccurate, incomplete and misleading information as it related to the Vietnam War. Reportedly, this was due to an ongoing review and improvement project. There has since been partial correction and at least the Lists of Accounted for US personnel have been restored, but the unaccounted-for lists are still incorrect, including altered countries of loss. DPAA still has not provided an anticipated completion date to get its planned improvements online and available to the public. Until further notice, the League advises against relying on the DPAA website for accurate data on the Vietnam War accounting mission.

DPAA DIRECTOR SELECTION PROCESS: As of this date, a new DPAA Director STILL has not been selected, now 11 months after the surprise resignation of Mike Linnington. Advertisements seeking applicants for this crucial position were sought and the closing date was April 6th. The responsible official now “Acting in the Capacity of” Undersecretary of Defense for Policy (USD-P) is Ms. Theresa Whelan, a career DoD official. A new person to permanently fill the USD-P position is unlikely to be nominated, confirmed and in place by the time the selection must be made. Hopefully, Secretary of Defense Mattis will ensure serious consideration of recommendations provided by the League, Special Operations Association (SOA), Special Forces Association (SFA) and others. Up to now, there has been no indication that important qualifications – such as experience, character, commitment and dedication to the mission – were given consideration, nor were crucial factors such as having earned the trust and respect of affected families and Veterans, as well as foreign officials whose willingness to authorize necessary cooperation is critical to success.

VIETNAM WAR ACCOUNTING OPERATIONS REDUCED: Due to budget constraints, field operations with Vietnam have been dramatically reduced; however, Lao operations have not been as adversely impacted, and a Lao Joint Field Activity (JFA) will begin shortly, the 4th JFA this fiscal year. The earlier JFA in Laos was postponed one week due to an aircraft breakdown and delay in Guam, but a trilateral investigation reportedly began as scheduled on January 9th. The three Recovery Teams (RTs) and one Investigation Team (IT) began late. The lost time was due to US budget and time constraints, NOT any obstruction from the Lao Government. With initial plans to conduct multiple operations in Vietnam, DPAA deployed only one IT and one RT, as well as a team to handle a Field Forensic Review (FFR) and a Joint Forensic Review (JFR). Thankfully, the Vietnamese Government provided one Vietnamese Recovery Team (VRT) and one Research Investigation Team (RIT). The next JFA in Vietnam will also be significantly smaller. Though the initial plan was to field two ITs and 7 RTs, there now will be only one RT, one VRT, and one Underwater Recovery Team (URT).

DPAA BUDGET REQUIREMENTS NOT MET: As is obvious, DPAA did NOT have the funding in Fiscal Year 2017 (FY17) required to “increase the pace and scope of operations,” as has repeatedly been requested by Vietnam. Despite continuing internal dysfunction, DPAA had been proceeding well since becoming fully operational in January of 2016. After assurance from Acting DPAA Director Fern Sumpter Winbush that funding was secured, though at a lower level, but adequate to sustain operations until April 28th, the reduction in field operations was a serious blow to confidence in DPAA’s commitment to pursue Vietnam War accounting as a continuing priority. Now, due to inadequate funding, the damage is increasingly clear. The plus-up of $20 million to reach the necessary FY17 budget total of $132 million for planned operational requirements could not be requested until 45 days after a budget was approved. That did not occur, and it now appears there may be no budget approval this fiscal year, meaning it is already too late to receive, contract and utilize additional funds for the 3rd and 4th quarters of FY17. Of DPAA’s initial funding for FY17, funds were already obligated for WWII and Korean War accounting, including recovery of remains from US cemeteries for individual identification; thus the ID count for WWII and Korean War continues to rise significantly.

YOUR HELP IS URGENTLY NEEDED! Write your elected officials, objecting to inadequate funding for DPAA FY17 operational requirements. Ask for additional FY18 funding for worldwide accounting and recovery efforts, as well as exemption of DPAA funding from any/all reductions. Funding for Veterans’ care is rightfully protected by exempting VA budgets from across-the-board reductions and/or sequestration. Our UNRETURNED Veterans, America’s POW/MIAs, deserve that same protection and adequate funds to return them to our Nation by achieving the fullest possible accounting.

VIETNAM WAR COMMEMORATION: The US Vietnam War Commemoration will soon send letters through the Service Casualty Offices to the families about Certificates of Honor signed by the Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The letters will explain the program and how to request a certificates if not yet received. These Certificates have been presented at prior League Annual Meetings and DPAA-hosted Family Member Updates (FMUs). For more information, contact Yvonne Schilz or Matt Trotta at 1-877-387-9951.

48TH ANNUAL MEETING IS CRUCIAL: The League’s 48th Annual Meeting, June 21st-25th, will again be held at the Hilton Crystal City Hotel, as it has been the last several years. This will be the first opportunity to hear from the President and/or senior Trump Administration officials. Since the Department of Defense (DoD) is responsible for the accounting mission and the Military Services play such key roles, Secretary of Defense General James Mattis and General Joseph F. Dunford, USMC, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, are also invited to this year’s meeting.

Also, importantly, and for the first time, Russian Chairman of the US-Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIA Affairs General-Colonel Valery A. Vostrotin, recently confirmed his participation in our 48th Annual Meeting to DPAA Europe-Mediterranean Regional Director COL Chris Forbes, USA. (COL Forbes and his team were in Moscow for the first US-Russia technical talks in decades.) US Chairman General Robert H. “Doc” Foglesong, USAF (Ret), has also confirmed participation.

Orientation for Newcomers will be held June 21st, from 4:00 – 5:00 PM in the Patrick Henry Board Room, First Floor.

The Opening Session will be on Thursday, June 22nd, and there will be two full days of presentations by current and former US officials and noted private specialists, as well as official briefings from analytic personnel, field operators, scientists and guest presenters on the complete range of issue-related policy and operational matters. The 48th Annual Dinner & Candlelight Ceremony will be held Thursday evening, June 22nd. This year’s program includes two workshops on Friday, June 23rd, immediately following the Service-hosted Luncheons. That evening, an Inspirational Service will be held in the Hall of Heroes at the Pentagon, followed by a tour of the newly opened Vietnam War Exhibit. Saturday morning, June 24th, a three-hour Q&A Session will be held with working-level DoD officials who made presentations, followed by the League Business Session and a closing League-hosted Farewell Reception, that evening, 6:30 – 8:00 PM.

Meet Your Elected Officials: It is more important than ever that elected Representatives and Senators know what POW/MIA family members, veterans and concerned citizens expect from Congress regarding support for the accounting mission. Call on your elected representatives to urge full funding and support for personnel needed to accomplish our longstanding, reasonable objective: the fullest possible accounting for America’s unreturned Vietnam Veterans, our missing POW/MIAs. Make your appointment now!

Make travel arrangements to arrive on Tuesday, June 20th and depart on Sunday June 25th. This will ensure participation on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, June 21st, and the Q & A Session on Saturday, June 24th, in preparation for voting on policy resolutions during the League Business Session. These official League positions are geared toward developing League policy on the way ahead to achieve our accounting objectives. And, PAY YOUR DUES TO BE ELIGIBLE TO VOTE!

Transportation: As required by law, the Secretary of Defense will again authorize transportation for two family members of each Vietnam War missing and unaccounted-for American to attend. Service Casualty Officers have sent relevant information to the Primary Next of Kin (PNOK) about the 48th Annual Meeting, as well as forms for requesting transportation (COIN Assist), case file reviews, and attendance at Service-hosted Luncheons. In authorizing travel, original Congressional intent was to ensure that each missing American is represented at the League’s annual meetings at which official government briefings will be given. All family members are eligible to attend, though some League sessions can be restricted and open only to those who register for the full League 48th Annual Meeting. Questions? Call the national office, 703-465-7432.

Registration: To register for the 48th Annual Meeting, use the Registration Form previously sent by the League or that sent by your Service Casualty Office. PLEASE COMPLETE BOTH SIDES and return the form to the League office with your check covering the cost of meeting registration and dinner (if you choose to attend). Deadline for registration is June 1st.

Credentials for the meeting will be available for pick-up Wednesday, June 21st from 3:00 – 5:00 PM and 7:00 – 9:00 PM in the Virginia Ballroom Foyer, Plaza Level. If you can’t locate a Registration Form, check the League’s website or call the League office. Cost to register for the meeting only is $50.00, $100 for the meeting and dinner total for League member, family and associate. For those inviting dinner guests, the additional cost is $55 per person. As noted above, registration payment can be sent by check to the League office or paid online at www.pow-miafamilies.org, thus saving check-writing, stamps, and time, if so inclined.

Reservations: This year, the hotel rate for rooms at the Hilton Crystal City Hotel is again $152.00 (plus tax), per room, per night – single or double, with a charge of $20 per night for each additional adult in the room. To make reservations, call 800-HILTONS (800-445-8667), noting affiliation with the League’s 48th Annual Meeting. You can also go to www.hilton.com and use the code MIA. Deadline to secure the special rate has been extended to June 1st. The room-block is limited, first come, first served. If you have any problems with reservations, please contact the national office.

Boutique: This will again be held in the Old Dominion Executive Board Room, Plaza Level. In view of the tremendous success in years past, the League is again seeking suitable items for display and purchase. Please be selective, and either bring the item(s) with you and deliver them to League officials at Registration or send them in advance to the League office, including an itemized list noting each item’s value. If you are interested in learning more about suggested donations or items that have sold well in the past, request a list from the national office, 703-465-7432.

Commemorative Program: Each year, the League publishes a special program that includes individual and organizational tributes honoring missing US personnel, organizational messages with best wishes to the families gathered for the meeting, and announcements related to POW/MIA awareness, etc. The costs are: full page – $500; ½ page – $250; ¼ page – $125; business card – $50; “In Honor of” list with name and donor, $25. Deadline for receipt of such material is June 1st. Email camera-ready artwork to Betty Bartels Murphy, [email protected], or Office Administrator Leslie Swindells, [email protected], and mail a copy with payment to the national office.

IT IS VERY IMPORTANT TO ATTEND THE 48TH ANNUAL MEETING! Funding, personnel and leadership changes and challenges within the POW/MIA community ensure information provided during this year’s briefings and panels will be critical and will affect every family member.

LEAGUE ANNUAL DUES – 2017: Each year, the League asks that all League Members renew their membership by sending the small donation of $25. This supports the League and ensures your information on file is current. If you are attending the 48th Annual Meeting and wish to vote, you MUST be current on your dues. Send your check to the League’s national office or use the League website: www.pow-miafamilies.org to pay electronically.

LEAGUE BOARD OF DIRECTORS ELECTION: Due to the fact that each member of the current seven-member Board of Directors for 2015 – 2017 filed an application for election to the 2017 – 2019 Board, and no other applications were received in the League’s national office by the April 12th deadline, NO ELECTION WILL BE HELD. The Board (alphabetically listed) will again be comprised of Pam Cain, MIA Daughter, FL; Karoni Forrester, MIA Daughter, TX; Ann Mills-Griffiths, MIA Sister, VA; Eldon Robinson, MIA Brother, NE; Sue Scott, MIA/RR Sister, MI; Mark Stephensen, MIA/RR Son, ID; and Cindy Stonebraker, MIA Daughter, KY.

DPAA-HOSTED FAMILY UPDATES: The remaining 2017 DPAA-hosted Family Updates are May 20th, Syracuse, NY; during the League’s 48th Annual Meeting June 21st-25th; and September 9th, Detroit, MI. The representational percentage for Vietnam War family members is much higher than for other wars. DEMONSTRATE YOU ARE ENGAGED AND EXPECT PRIORITY EFFORTS BASED ON THE PRINCIPLE OF FIRST PURSUING ANSWERS ON THOSE MISSING FROM AMERICA’S MOST RECENT WAR.

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