Summary. One has only to surf the worldwide web for a few
minutes before encountering a "POW-MIA remembrance site" featuring "my
adopted POW-MIA." On several of these sites and other sites sponsored by
MIA "activist" groups one sees messages to the effect that "I have adopted
(a missing man's name) and would like to contact his family." These
"remembrance sites" and attempts to contact families are, in my view, a bad
"My Adopted POW"
The WWW is filled with "POW-MIA remembrance sites" each of which features one
or more missing men, complete with photos of the man, waving flags, "awards for this
site," and in some cases, funeral music. These sites do nothing to honor
missing men and are sources of misinformation. If you want to see what I mean, use a
search engine to search for "remembrance site" or "POW-MIA remembrance
site" or "adopted POW-MIA."
There are two main sources of information for these remembrance sites: (1)
"Operation Just Cause (OJC), and, (2) The "POW-MIA Network." Each of
these, especially OJC, encourages people to "adopt" a missing man and to
construct a site in his memory. OJC and the Network provide "biographies"
of missing men to be used on your remembrance site. The problem is that these
biographies are very misleading and contain much bogus information.
I am familiar with the details of many loss incidents and when I read one of these
incidents on a remembrance site I find myself asking if I am reading the same incident
with which I am familiar. The "biographies" provided by OJC and the
Network contain the official US government information mixed with false information,
misrepresentations, rumors, hearsay, and speculation -- and the false and misleading
information is often in the majority. As an example, search for remembrance sites
dedicated to USAF Captain Earl P. Hopper, Jr. Read the description of his loss on
these remembrance sites -- it's an exciting tale -- and it's mainly bogus. Then, read this article, which contains the facts of his loss and recovery
of his remains.
For another example, search for a remembrance site about USAF Captain George MacDonald,
lost in the shootdown of AC-130 callsign SPECTRE 17. Read those sites, then read this article for the facts.
Anyone who is thinking about establishing a "remembrance site" would do well
to ask themselves: Do I really honor a missing man when I spread bogus
information about him?
"How Do I Contact the Family of My Adopted POW?" ( Answer: Don't )
I read the messages posted on the guestbooks of certain POW-MIA "activist"
sites and there are always messages saying something like: "I have adopted (name of a
missing man) and I want to talk to his family. Can anyone help me contact the
family?" My advice is: Leave the family alone.
In the six years that I served in the Defense Department's POW-MIA offices, I met a lot
of family members. Many of them told me how they do not want publicity and do not
want to be contacted by "well-meaning" people. Why, you may ask, would a
family not want to be contacted by me -- I am going to honor their missing
son/brother/husband/father with a web site. Here are some reasons that it's not a
good idea to contact families.
Families may not want to have their wounds ripped open
For you, "adopting" a missing man may seem like a patriotic thing to do.
On the other hand, you have not lived with the loss of your
son/brother/husband/father for most of your life. Remember, this is 2002.
The last US MIA was lost in Vietnam in 1973 -- 30 years ago. Parents
are old or dead, siblings are getting older every day, and children who may never have
known their father are adults with families of their own. These family members have
lived with grief and emptiness longer than you or I ever will. Many -- most -- of
them have put their lives together and moved on, still with a big, empty hole in their
Consider this. Assume that you have "adopted" a missing man who was
lost in, say, 1969, at age 22. In 2002, this man would be 55 years old; his parents,
if still living, would be 80 or older; his siblings would be in their 50's; his children
would by in their mid-30's. Do you really think you will comfort an 80 year old
mother who listens all day every day for her missing son to call her name?
Just exactly what good will you do by contacting a family and making them re-live the
loss, the pain, and the emptiness of the past 30 or more years? Are you really doing
this "for the family," or, are you doing it for yourself? More than
likely, it's the latter case. Leave the families alone.
Families have been victimized by scam artists
Many families have been victimized by scam artists. Some have paid large sums of
money to people who promised information about their missing man. Others have been
shown phony photographs and other items that purportedly were from their missing man --
all phony. One family -- parents of a missing Navy aviator whose remains were
later recovered -- were approached by a former US Army officer who claimed that he knew
where their missing son was being held prisoner. The father told me that he
eventually gave the man $40,000 to find his son. The son was dead -- he died in when
his aircraft was shot down -- and the man who took the money was a fraud.
In other cases, families have been shown phony photos that were claimed to be of their
missing son/husband/brother/father -- see this article for
examples. Families have been victimized by people claiming to have the remains of
their missing man or information about him, and by people with other phony claims.
As a result of these experiences, many families simply want no contact with anyone whom
they do not know for fear of being victimized. Leave them alone.
If you still will not listen to reason . . .
. . . and if you think that you really must contact a family, the best way to do so is
through the military service casualty offices. Each service -- Army, Navy, Air
Force, Marines Corps -- has a casualty office whose mission is to assist the families of
service members who are killed, captured, missing, or injured, both today and in the past.
If you want to contact the family of a missing man, write to the casualty office
listed below, tell them what you want, and provide a return address. The casualty
office will contact the family -- in most cases, they will know the family from previous
contact. The casualty office will then follow the family's desires -- if the family
wishes to be left alone, or if the family has no problem with your contact, the casualty
office will deliver the message for you.
Here are the casualty office addresses:
USAF Missing Persons Branch
550 C Street West, Suite 15
Randolph AFB, TX 78150-4716
Department of the Army
2461 Eisenhower Avenue
Alexandria, VA 22331-0482
Headquarters US Marine Corps
Manpower and Reserve Affairs (MRC)
Personnel and Family Readiness Division
3280 Russell Road
Quantico VA 22134-5103
Navy Personnel Command
Bureau of Naval Personnel
Casualty Assistance Branch
5720 Integrity Drive
Millington, TN 38055-6210
Department of State (missing civilian personnel)
Department of State
Office of AmCitizens Services and CM
2201 C Street, NW
Washington DC 20520
In case you do not yet get the message, my advice is: Forget the
"remembrance site" -- it's likely to be filled with phony information -- and
leave the family alone.