U.S. military specialists who track down the remains of unaccounted for servicemen will be in Houston to update families fo the missing on the status of the search for their loved ones. Houston Public Radio’s Jack Williams reports.
They’re called Family Updates, briefings from members of the Department of Defense’s POW-Missing Personnel Office. Tomorrow, families of missing service members who live in a 350 mile radius of Houston can go to the Doubletree Hotel near Intercontinental Hotel for case-specific updates. Adrian Cronauer, the inspiration behind the 1987 movie “Good Morning Vietnam”, is now with the POW-Missing Personnel office at the Pentagon.
“We bring in representatives of our units throughout the world to do a full-day, PowerPoint presentation of what we do and how we do it. We then at the end of the day give the participants whatever information we might have about their own missing loved one and some of these people, this is the first time in years, maybe even decades, that they’ve heard anything. Even if we’re only able to give them just a tiny bit of information, it means so much to them.”
There are still an estimated 88,000 unaccounted for servicemen from American conflicts. The vast majority of those, about 78,000, are from World War II and many involve Americans who went down with ships or airplanes. About 8,000 are still missing from the Korean War and 2,000 from Vietnam.
“We are at least a decade ahead of any other country. Many countries still follow the procedure that we did years ago where we said if you fought oversees and died oversees you were buried overseas. We feel it’s important because we can technically do it in the age of the jet transport. We can return the remains to their families and this is so important.”
Family members who attend the update have the option of having their mouths swabbed for DNA to make it easier for government investigators to match them with recovered remains. Teams of scientists in Hawaii, Maryland and here in Texas sift through mounds of evidence to make positive ID’s.
“Sometimes it’s been analogized as doing a gigantic jigsaw puzzle but there’s no picture on the box so you can’t tell what it’s supposed to look like and you don’t even know if all those pieces in the box are the same puzzle. So it takes a lot of work, but we do it because we know it’s important to everyone involved, especially the family members.”
Cronauer says the U.S. Military clears roughly 100 cases every year. Tomorrow’s family update at the Doubletree Hotel near Intercontinental Airport is free and begins with an 8 AM registration.