Edgar A. Tieman
Does war ever come/go full circle
For me the circle did close a little
Here in this little part of the world
We honored those soldiers
Who have not returned? The MIAs
©Copyright May 27, 2002 by Edgar A. Tieman
A QUEST TO BRING U.S. SOLDIERS BACK HOME
May 27, 2002
By John Sharify
LAOS – At first glance, the scene in the mountains of Laos looks like your typical archeological dig. People call out to one another “we’re going to find what we need to find.”
But they aren’t archaeologists. They are servicemen and women from the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines. They are looking for something very specific.
As one soldier puts it, “It’s quite an awestruck feeling when you’re screening down there and you come across a dog tag or a key or a ring or a watch or even a bone. It’s almost a frightening experience at first.”
They are looking for the remains of Vietnam veterans missing in action for nearly four decades.
Nine American soldiers were on board a surveillance plane that crashed near the village of Boolapao.
Nick Williams from Whidbey Island Naval air station says, “There were nine individuals on the aircraft. We were trying to find the last two that had not been identified.”
Petty Officer First Class, Nick Williams from the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station helped find the remains last February. “We were sifting and digging for about 30 to 35 days altogether.”
His buddy, Petty Officer Second Class Ben Umayan, worked a different crash site in Laos. Umayan says, “We found quite a bit of bone and teeth.”
The search and recovery of MIAs and POWs is part of the military’s joint task force-full accounting mission.
Now in its tenth year, servicemen and women have recovered as many as 500 unaccounted for Americans.
Ben Umayan says he knows it sounds corny, but the mission gave him a deeper sense of patriotism knowing that families could finally have closure. “I’ve never been more proud of anything.”
On this Memorial Day, both petty officers Umayan and Williams will be thinking and thanking those brave men who gave their lives in the Vietnam War.
Nick Williams will never forget seeing and holding the dog tags that belonged to one of them. “To hold them in my hand, the black electrical tape that the individual had used to tape them together was still on it. It’s hard to explain. It touches you. I still feel it. We got this guy and he’s going to go home.”
Both Williams and Umayan were born after the Vietnam War, they know about this war only in what they’ve read, what they’ve heard.
What they know is how important it is to look out for their own.
Umayan says, “I was talking to my father about it and he said that if it were to happen to him, if I were to be gone and never heard from again, he would search the earth for me.”
Search the earth, in the hopes of bringing one of their own back home.
There are still about 2,000 Americans unaccounted for in Southeast Asia.