A formal repatriation of remains ceremony was held on July 8, 2018 at the Da Nang International Airport in Vietnam. It was attended by military representatives from both the United States and Vietnam. It was a warm, sunny day and the ceremony was conducted with all due military honors and respect.
Of course, none of those military members who participated in the formal ceremonies and the search for fallen American remains from either the U.S. side or the Vietnamese side were old enough to have been veterans of that War now 50 years in the past.
Much has changed in the relationship between our two countries. Much that is very positive. The political and economic environments have changed and we no longer see ourselves as each other’s “enemy.”
Indeed, the majority of the Vietnamese population was born long after the war was over and have no memories, or relation to it, except as a matter of history. Those Vietnam War veterans who have gone back to Vietnam in recent years report how warmly they have been received and of very emotional meetings with men who were NVA soldiers on the other side of the wire at the same battles.
The POW/MIA issue is very important to those of us who fought in Vietnam. It has always been an American military tradition to do everything that was necessary so as to leave none of our combat brothers and sisters behind. It is very common to see the POW/MIA flag flying just below the American flag at VFW or American Legion Posts, at Federal buildings, or at military bases, or even in the yards of individual veterans’ homes.
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We know that there are still over 2,000 MIAs who have yet to be accounted for.
In recent years we have seen individual MIAs from the Vietnam war coming home to their families after their remains have been found and identified through the ongoing efforts of the Defense Department’s POW/MIA Accounting Agency. The same agency participated in this repatriation ceremony at the Da Nang International Airport on Tuesday, July 8, 2018.
It is also a fact that the Vietnamese also suffered the loss of many thousands of their own who are still missing in action. That is the truth about every war. In the midst of the fire and fury of war, men are lost because of terrain, or because of the kinds of weaponry that are used, or the nature of the missions they have been sent on, who go “missing in action.”
Their names are listed as missing in action (MIA) and their brother combatants and their families back home have to learn how to live with that indescribable emptiness and the weight of countless unanswered questions for the rest of their lives.
Today, our former “enemies” are engaged in helping us to find our lost brothers and in affording them the respect and all of the honors that are due to them.
On July 8, at the Da Nang International Airport, the United States military was represented by Lt. Col. Romel Pajimala, commander of the Defense Department POW/MIA Accounting Agency team. The Vietnamese side was represented by Senior Col. Nguyen Huu Luong of the Vietnamese Ministry of Defense. They signed the required repatriation transfer documents together then witnessed the somber and respectful exchange of remains believed to be associated with U.S. servicemen from the war.
Those remains will now go to Hawaii where DNA analysis and other scientific determinations will be used to identify those remains and to then notify the families so that arrangements can be made to repatriate them to their hometowns. This will help bring closure to the long suffering those families have endured for so long.
The Veterans Site expresses its condolences to all of our families who continue to await the return of their soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines from WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. We thank all those who are actively serving and participating in the difficult efforts to find, identify and repatriate our MIA brothers.
We continue to pray for the return of all of our POW/MIA brothers to their homeland.
Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site Blog.