Sept. 21, 2012 - Weekly Update


Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter is hosting the Department of Defense's National POW/MIA Recognition Day ceremony today 10 a.m. EDT at the Pentagon River Terrace Parade Field. Deputy Director Joseph Grassi and Assistant Director Freddy Gessner will represent The American Legion.

National POW/MIA Recognition Day is observed across the nation on the third Friday of September each year. Americans take the time to remember those who were prisoners of war (POW) and those who are missing in action (MIA), as well as their families. It is a time to pause to remember the sacrifices and service of those who were prisoners of war (POW), as well as those who are missing in action (MIA), and their families. All military installations fly the National League of Families’ POW/MIA flag, which symbolizes the nation’s remembrance of those who were imprisoned while serving in conflicts and those who remain missing.

Currently, there are 73,681 World War II servicemembers still missing; 7,550 Korean War servicemembers still missing; 1,661 Vietnam War servicemembers missing; 126 Cold War servicemembers still missing and 6 servicemembers still missing from missions since 1986.

The United States Congress passed a resolution authorizing National POW/MIA Recognition Day to be observed on July 18, 1979. It was observed on the same date in 1980 and was held on July 17 in 1981 and 1982. It was then observed on April 9 in 1983 and July 20 in 1984. The event was observed on July 19 in 1985, and then from 1986 onwards the date moved to the third Friday of September. The United States president each year proclaims National POW/MIA Recognition Day. Many states in the USA also proclaim POW/MIA Recognition Day together with the national effort.

The National League of Families’ POW/MIA flag symbolizes the United States’ resolve to never forget POWs or those who served their country in conflicts and are still missing. Newt Heisley designed the flag. The flag’s design features a silhouette of a young man, which is based on Mr Heisley’s son, who was medically discharged from the military. As Mr Heisley looked at his returning son’s gaunt features, he imagined what life was for those behind barbed wire fences on foreign shores. He then sketched the profile of his son as the new flag's design was created in his mind.

The flag features a white disk bearing in black silhouette a man’s bust, a watch tower with a guard on patrol, and a strand of barbed wire. White letters “POW” and “MIA”, with a white five-pointed star in between, are typed above the disk. Below the disk is a black and white wreath above the motto “You Are Not Forgotten” written in white, capital letters.

The flag can also be displayed on Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day and Veterans Day. The flag can be displayed at the Capitol, the White House, the Korean War Veterans Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, national cemeteries, various government buildings, and major military installations.

As you know, September is National Preparedness Month and FEMA invites you to again pledge to prepare by joining the National Preparedness Coalition.

The 2012 National Preparedness Coalition Online Community is the largest community yet, with over 15,500 members connecting and collaborating on emergency preparedness. Members are empowering themselves to prepare and coordinating preparedness activities with family, neighbors, co-workers, and those with whom they may study or worship.
Here are the top 5 reasons to join:
• Get access to the latest useful information to help you prepare.
• Promote your national preparedness event on the calendar.
• Get support and share best practices with over 15,500 members.
• Re-connect with FEMA personnel and others near you in the regional forums.
• Help others prepare and increase our resilience.

To join the National Preparedness Coalition click here:


On July 30, 2012 the remains of a U.S. serviceman, missing in action from the Korean War, were identified and returned to his family for burial with full military honors.

Army Sgt. Thomas J. Barksdale, 21, of Macon, Ga., will be buried Aug. 3, in Milledgeville, Ga. In late November 1950, Barksdale, and elements of the 2nd Infantry Division were in a defensive line north of Kujang, North Korea, when they were attacked by Chinese forces, in what became known as the Battle of the Ch’ongch’on. Barksdale was reported missing in action days after the attack. In 1953, after the Armistice, when captured soldiers were returned, American soldiers had no information concerning Barksdale. His remains were not among those returned by Communist forces after the war.

In 2000, a joint U.S./Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (D.P.R.K.) recovery team excavated several Korean War fighting positions on a hilltop in Kujang County. Isolated human remains recovered from a nearby foxhole were submitted to the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFDIL) for analysis.

Scientists and analysts from JPAC and AFDIL used circumstantial evidence, dental records and mitochondrial DNA – which matched that of Barksdale’s nieces – in the identification of his remains.

Today, more than 7,900 Americans remain unaccounted for from the Korean War.

On August 6, 2012 the remains of two U.S. servicemen, missing in action from the Vietnam War, were identified and returned to their families for burial with full military honors.

Air Force Lt. Col. Charles M. Walling, 27, of Phoenix, and Maj. Aado Kommendant, 25, of Lakewood, N.J., will be buried as a group at Arlington National Cemetery, near Washington, D.C. on Aug. 8 – the 46th anniversary of the crash that took their lives. Walling was individually buried on June 15, at Arlington National Cemetery.

On Aug. 8, 1966, Walling and Kommendant were the crew of an F-4C aircraft that crashed while on a close air support mission over Song Be Province, Vietnam. Other Americans in the area reported seeing the aircraft crash and no parachutes were deployed. Search and rescue efforts were not successful in the days following the crash.

In 1992, a joint U.S./Socialist Republic of Vietnam (S.R.V.) team investigated the crash site and interviewed a local Vietnamese citizen who had recovered aircraft pieces from the site.

In 1994, a joint U.S./S.R.V. team excavated the site and recovered a metal identification tag, bearing Walling’s name, and other military equipment. In 2010, the site was excavated again, and human remains and additional evidence were recovered.

Scientists from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used circumstantial and material evidence, along with forensic identification tools including mitochondrial DNA in the identification of the remains.


This week ending September 21, 2012 our Military Review Boards staff assisted 27 former service members with new, upcoming and pending petitions prepare their case for review by the Military Discharge Review Boards and Boards for Correction of Military Records. Case development included: 34 phone calls, 22 emails, 5 correspondences, 5 service officer inquiries and two hearing reviews.

John Stovall, Director
National Security-Foreign Relations Division