POW/MIA Flag Under Attack
In recent weeks there have been more than a subtle number of op-ed pieces in
some major newspapers like the Boston-Globe and even, believe it or not, in the Marine Corps Times (MCT) attacking the POW/MIA
Flag. It is painstakingly clear that these writers have no real understanding
of the inner workings of this issue, have no personal reference when attempting to write their commentaries, nor have then
made attempts to do so. Each of these men, James Carroll at the Boston
Globe and Robert Dorr the op-ed contributor in the MCT, made no attempt to ask their questions to those that still feel this
flag means something and has a symbolism that will linger far into the next century.
Carroll made the argument that many men were listed as MIA by surviving comrades
wanting to help families of the fallen to guarantee salary payments. He gave
no supporting evidence for this assumption but at the same time one would think that the emotional turmoil of not having closure
as well as the constant question of where they might be and their possible suffering would out weigh any financial benefit. He omitted the fact that in 1980, after botching up the post-war package with Vietnam,
the US government began declaring each of these men “presumed dead” and ending their salaries and benefits for
their families. Carroll’s position is interesting in the fact that his father served as the head of the Defense Intelligence
Agency office responsible for POW/MIA investigations in the year following Vietnam.
He may well have a personal reason for wanting to see this flag disappear that goes far beyond his political views.
The mishandling of POW/MIA cases in the early years is the reason this issue is still being fought today.
I am forced to recall a statement made by former NH Senator Bob Smith when,
in response to a question about the lack of openness on the part of our own government in this issue, said, “Truth has
a way of healing a nation.” What profound words from someone who truly
does know something about this issue and has taken the time to meet with family members of the missing and understand the
difficulties we are faced with in this drawn-out battle for the truth.
Dorr on the other hand claims
that the POW/MIA Flag is “out-of-date imagery” and “counterproductive” and believes it should be retired. Again, Dorr shows his need for education on the POW/MIA issue as he seems to have
forgotten that we have two modern day POWs that have still not been accounted for; Navy pilot Scott Speicher from Gulf War
I and Ohio Army Reservist Keith “Matthew” Maupin who was captured north of Baghdad in April of 2004. Would either of these two writers dare to present their cases to the Maupin Family and tell them that their
fight to bring their son home was “counterproductive”? With an American
soldier missing just over two years, how can one consider this flag out-dated? It
is as real and forceful today as it was in 1971 when the National League of POW/MIA Families introduced it to our nation.
Here is an excerpt from a response to the Dorr piece that we written just a
few days ago;
“I must strongly disagree with Mr. Dorr’s
statement that this flag has served its purpose and should be retired. Until
every last clue is uncovered, until every last document is made public, until every last possible American is brought home
to be buried in the soil he so selflessly gave his life for, only then shall we consider retiring this flag. Until that glorious day when they have all come home, this flag will fly and it will have meaning
for those of us willing to look outside ourselves and see that doing justice for the fallen is more than doing “good”
it is doing what it right. I would like to leave you all with a quote that is
seen on the walls of many schools around our nation; “What is popular isn’t always right and what is right isn’t
always popular.” We in the POW/MIA Community, thankfully, belong in the
If I may be so bold as to say that what each of
these men lack is a sense of honor, a sense of pride. They are, to say the very
least, detached from the heart of this issue, which is, simply put, the memory of those who never came home. One need only spend an afternoon at any of the war memorials in our nation’s capital and watch the
raw emotion of the comrades and family members as they do the only thing that can do – remember.
On a personal note, I would like to honor my 2nd
cousin, Cpl. Gregory J. Harris who was captured 40 years ago, on 12 June, 1966 in the Mo Duc sub-sector of Quang Ngai Province
in South Vietnam. He was last seen alive being lead away into the jungle
by two VC. He was first listed as captured yet when he never appeared in the
POW prison system his classification was changed to MIA. Through those brave
Marines that served with him with HQ 3/11 at Chu Lai I have a deeper understand of the words “honor” and “pride”. I am sure they would be happy to give Mr. Carroll and Mr. Dorr a few lessons in these
characteristics, as they are strong examples of both.
Mary Ann Reitano
This issue’s Marine to remember:
Capt. Francis Visconti, pilot of a UH34D helicopter
lost during a combat mission on 22 November, 1965. His wife Jan, even from her
wheel chair, continues to fight for his accounting.