Resources for POW/MIA Families
There is little comfort to those waiting to hear from a loved one who is away serving our country. When your husband, wife, son, daughter, or friend comes home everything is right in the world again. However, some families are faced with a different reality. Death is always a possibility, and many accept that possibility the day their family member or friend enlists. Yet, few understand or can accept an alternative scenario. What if you didn’t know whether your soldier was alive or dead? This is the reality for families with soldiers who are missing in action or prisoners of war.
It is estimated that tens of thousands of military personnel are missing in action or prisoners of war. The vast majority are presumed dead. It is believed that these brave souls are likely buried in foreign unmarked graves or lost at sea. Due to the staggering numbers of American Armed Forces still unaccounted for, several government and civilian organizations have been created. These groups and organizations are easily divided into two primary categories: Search and Recovery organizations and Support and Education organizations.
Search and Recovery Organizations:
The responsibility of search and recovery falls primarily to the US military. The US Defense Department’s Prisoner of War Missing Personnel Office, known as DPMO, and the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, or J-PAC, were some of the first created to identify and match soldier remains with names. In early 2015, these organizations were merged to create a new government group called the Defense POW/MIA Account Agency (DPAA). Despite their efforts, these offices only locate and account for about 70 veteran remains each year.
In an effort to boost search and rescue numbers, the veteran organization Rolling Thunder was born. Operation Rolling Thunder is manned by ex-military officers who are passionate about bringing their brothers home from the war. This organization sends rescue and search missions to different parts of the world in hopes of finding missing soldiers. This group is also extremely active in protecting POW/MIA rights, as well as educating the public on the statistics of the missing.
Support and Education Groups:
With limited search and rescue resources, many families often lose hope. Support groups have been organized to provide information and counselling to families having trouble learning about the POW/MIA status of a loved one. Much of the work done by these groups is geared around changing legislation. These organizations seek to open military files and declassify portions of their soldier records to provide additional information about their last location. Two such organizations are the National Alliance Of Families, www.nationalalliance.org and the National League of POW/MIA Families, www.pow-miafamilies.org.
Another fine resource for families seeking additional POW/MIA information is the POW Network, http://www.pownetwork.org/bios.htm. This website posts bios of soldiers as soon as information is found. The most interesting aspect of this site is its crowdsourcing contributions. Much like Ancestry.com or Wikipedia, pownetwork.org compiles information from multiple sources. Families can search for their loved one and see what type of information or entries are available. This site is extremely helpful when family members have information about other platoon, infantry, squadron team members that were on the same mission as their missing person. For those interested in learning more, this group hosts the Annual Military Gala & Banquet and an Annual POW/MIA service in Branson, Missouri every year. This event is an opportunity to distribute information and learn more about missing POW/MIA soldiers.
These resources are a sample of the many organizations that were created to help find our missing American soldiers. If you have had any successes with these organizations or any others, please feel free to share your comments.