Diane Moore

THE MIA/POW KIDS

I am the daughter of a forgotten HERO. I am the daughter of an Airman who gave his life and his freedom for me.

In the most feeble attempts of writing this I can only hope that when someone reads it that they attempt to understand my feelings, I can not write for my sisters, I can not write for the other children of war, I can however bring to the fore front the differences between Killed in Action and Missing in Action.

There are many Americans who do not have the littlest idea of what it is like to try to comprehend what war does to children, from the smallest toddler to the oldest child who tries to understand why my daddy went away.

I have wonderful friends who know what it is like to loose a parent, many whose parent was lost to heart attacks, car crashes, and suicides. These friends and I acknowledge each other’s lost and understand the loneliness of being without mom or dad. However, there are only a few of us who understand those loses coming from war. We all share in the same questions, the same heartaches, and the same wishes: the biggest shared question being the, “What If?”

I have read so many stories from the Children of the Wall, Children of the Vietnam War dead. The ones whose names are forever carved into black granite. Well over 58,000 names of men and women, who stand vigil night and day to remind those who pass in front of them.

That Freedom has a price, and that price is not money, but blood of fellow Americans. Reading stories from Vets, history and other materials is what has educated us to believe many things about Vietnam… some good and some bad. Movies have done the same.

I was a young girl of 11 when my dad went into his Missing in Action status. Later it was confirmed that enemy forces while returning to base after a 24-hour pass had captured him and three of his friends. My dad and the others were in the wrong place at the wrong time. No way to defend themselves, nor did they have the chance. A simple return to base that ended up a terrifying event.

Years have gone by, which in turn have turned in to decades. My sisters and I have families of our own, and my father has grandchildren and a great grand son. Yet there is still the man who is Missing.

I remember like other children of our time the Yellow Cab delivering the telegram, the one that makes mom cry out a very heart-breaking sob. I remember like others those words: We regret to inform you. And the other words depending on the status were either: your husband has been Killed in Action or is Missing in Action.
This is where my story will differ from other Sons and Daughters of the Vietnam War, except for a small number. As you see, there are less that 2,000 men still listed now has Missing in Action. So that means we MIA kids are very few, the forgotten ones.

When my dad went Missing, I remember asking the big question of my 11 years. What do you mean my daddy is missing, and why can’t they find him. How do you lose a grown up man? This followed me all my life, even after growing up; it is hard to understand why my dad and the other MIA’s cannot be accounted for. And it is really hard to understand if it is the men who were last seen alive. Year after year, the haunting realization comes: daddy is not coming home. Yet there is no body to bury, there is no funeral; there is not a grave to visit, there is nothing. NO closure. We were and are still expected to take the harsh reality of our dads Missing in Action and to get on with our life’s. And WE DID. With little of no help from any one but our moms and each other, but the each other only came after we were grown.

Our country was torn apart by Vietnam, our flag was burned by Americans, men and women protested our presence in South East Asia, some dodged the draft, and those who went to served were spat upon when they returned. They were called baby killers, and no one wanted any thing to do with them, no ticker tape parades no welcome homes. Coffins with flags draped on them returned to American soil and the children grieved, and said good-bye to daddy.

Yet those whose bodies did not come home were never thought about – except by the families and friends. There were those who were Killed in Action bodies not recovered or returned but evidence to the fact that they indeed were killed. Those families are like us MIA families. They have that same haunting feeling, could my dad still be really alive.

Telegrams came, in the thousands, widows were made, and children grew up to fast. My mom got hers, and I grew up, the oldest of three girls is not easy. My Christmas’s turned into learning how to put toys together, and wrap and give gifts that Santa is supposed to do. I even learned how to change fuses at 11, and by the time I was 14 I could change the oil in the car.

Yet I was protected somewhat by my mom, she did a great job raising my sisters and me, the best she could do. Yet she could not stop those who told me my dad was also a baby killer, who spat on my sisters and me, or who told me my dad deserved everything he got. That is hard to understand when you are a little girl, still hard for me to understand now.

Plus mom told us not to talk about dad’s case, as she said it might not be good for those men who are POW’s and if daddy is a POW, we don’t want to jeopardize his coming home. Neither was it a good idea to talk with men who had been over there because we don’t what to upset them, whether or not those men were uncles or even cousins.

Now years later we have talked with the men who served and came home, we learned about our dads, and we learned about Vietnam. The men were just as glad to talk as we were to listen. Yet there is still a difference in the MIA kid, we talk to the Vets, we listen to them, we ask them questions and they help a lot. We share our stories with others, but our dad’s stories are as some would like to say, ‘still to political’. So not too many people will ask us to speak at functions, yet we still hear, get over it.

We truly have no real place in the Vietnam organizations out there, and don’t get me wrong, there are a few to which we belong. Yet I can truthfully say there are fewer that really recognize who we are. There are those who say that they are working towards the POW MIA issue, but only use it to benefit them when convenient.

No one knows what it is like to live year after year wondering: where is my dad, but the MIA child; no one can even come near to truthfully saying that they understand, unless it is another MIA kid. No one but the MIA child or family member knows what the Missing Man Formation means unless you lost your dad to a plane crash somewhere and his remains were never found, or a small hand full of broken fragments comes decades later. No on but the MIA child or family member understands the Table Ceremony for the POW MIA; no one but the loved one who sits in silence with a tear as the meaning is read.

To feel happiness and jealously at the same time is another feeling that is something we deal with, happiness when another MIA is found, recovered, and returned to his home land and to his children and loved one, jealousy when you want so much to be standing the same way, watching a flag draped coffin being so gently carried to a final resting place, wishing it was your turn to say good-bye.

To my fellow MIA sisters and Brothers, we are very special; we are children who have kept the eternal flame alive that our dads gave us when he became our dad.

The general population may have forgotten our dads, and we may be but a few, but we have a voice and we have the time to make sure we continue the legacy our moms put before us.

As this Memorial Day approaches, we all need to remember.

Never Forget.