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Saturday, Dec 20, 2014
Steve Otto Columns

Otto: Our soldiers deserve much better

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I t was no surprise that you were as disgusted as I was with the results of an Associated Press study we ran in the Trib last week on the utter failure of the military group assigned to finding and recovering Americans missing in combat since World War II.

Most of your comments suggested punitive action against the group. Some, such as Bill Daniels of Plant City, said the problem was there was no reward for just doing your job, which you might find difficult to swallow when the issue is recovering American dead. He suggested some sort of bounty system be put together as an incentive.

v v Jim "Doc'' Gleason writes, "I was a director of the U. S. Marine Raider Association that worked for 50 years to locate the Raider 2nd Bn. KIA's remains on Makin Island in 1942. We were finally successful in bringing them home for a full honors burial at Arlington, on 17 August 2001, exactly 59 years to the day they were killed in action. Unfortunately we have never been able to locate the remains of the nine Raiders who were captured and beheaded.

"It is almost criminal to learn what has happened since the Air Force has taken over, as my 4th Raider Bn. still has more than 30 MIA on New Georgia Island.''

v v

The most interesting letter came from former Children's Board Director Luanne Panacek, who like so many of us grew up as a child of military soldiers. Panacek's father was killed in Korea and his remains were never recovered.

"When I read the AP article a couple of days ago," she writes, "my reaction was like 'right, no kidding, how much money did it cost to figure out what a bogus operation this was?'"

Here's how she arrived at this viewpoint.

"About 10 years ago I was contacted by someone from the military asking if I would provide my DNA for a DNA matching program for MIA\POW from Asian wars. You may recall that my father was an MIA from Korea. At any rate, they called a second time to indicate that they had obtained (DNA) from another family member, so mine wouldn't be necessary.

"The next year I received three invitations from the feds to fly and stay at their expense to D.C., San Francisco and maybe Atlanta. I was absolutely furious. Why? Because I could see how this operation could be totally manipulated on the part of the federal employees and the family members. Since that first year, I have been invited to at least two events each year. (She enclosed her most recent invitation last month).

"I have never attended a briefing primarily because I was told from the time I was a teenager that my Dad's buddies witnessed him being killed by an explosive device.

"The federal office did provide me with an accounting of the last few days of my father's life ... My father was killed during the last 48 hours of fighting after the war had been declared over. Those 48 hours were particularly brutal and deadly for both sides. The Chinese poured 10,000 troops in to gain as much territory as possible before the official armistice. I never knew any of this and I'm fairly certain neither did my mother or my grandparents.

"I'm not likely the only person you will hear from about this. As much as I truly believe that our soldiers should all be brought home, I know there's got to be a better way to carry out this program."

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