Armed conflict is never easy, and there is nothing more difficult for the family of a military man than to get that dreaded phone call or visit. Despite the pain, though, one can choose to see the silver lining of witnessing a loved one go down in history as a martyr and a hero, laid to rest among other heroes who have served their motherland well.
While this may be heart wrenching in itself, there is something that is even more painful to bear. Because reality is, in war, not everyone gets to come home. So there are families and friends out there who are still in the dark, not knowing their loved ones’ final fate.
They are called MIA – Missing In Action, soldiers whose fates are yet unknown, and their families are not the only ones who remember them and keep them alive. The government that they serve also does not dare forget those who guard their very existence.
The Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) is the agency coordinating efforts towards recovering deployed military personnel all over the world. Their top priority is “live recovery” – their assumption is always that someone who is declared missing will still be found alive and all efforts to keep him or her that way and bring them back safely will be taken.
Each branch of the military – the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps – has its own recovery efforts. The DPMO has in its database all military personnel declared MIA from the Second World War, the Korean War, the Cold War, and the Vietnam and Gulf Wars.
Private citizens help in personnel recovery efforts by organizing drives to raise awareness on the POW/MIA plight. During the Vietnam War, a group of student leaders launched the POW/MIA bracelet. Each bracelet had engraved on it, at a minimum, the name, rank, and date of loss of a soldier who is MIA from the Vietnam War. Their organization has since folded, but until now people who bought the bracelet in support and in memory of these soldiers either still have them or are trying to reach out to their families.