That is the ethos of America’s warriors, the commitment that you will never leave a fallen brother behind, and being assured that they will do the same for you. It brings no small measure of solace knowing that one way or another, you WILL go home.
The reality of warfare however does not always allow for that ethos to be fulfilled. One of the gaping wounds still festering on the American military’s psyche following Vietnam is the fate of over 1,600 of our brothers still missing from that war. While other wars have more MIA’s unaccounted for, there are still over 8,000 missing from the Korean War for example, the abandonment and ill treatment of the Vietnam veteran has seared the memories of Vietnam’s missing into the consciousness of our warrior caste. It is a particularly painful aspect of our nations disgraceful treatment of our Vietnam vets, and will remain a black mark on the mantra of “No Man Left Behind” for generations to come.
That’s why the dedicated personnel at the Department of Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office do what they do, which is to track down every lead they can to make a final accounting of our missing from that tragic war. It is a grueling, laborious task involving countless interviews, site excavations, DNA matching, and pouring over dental and service records. But every so often they succeed in their work and at long last a grieving family can finally welcome their Johnny home, and an American son can be brought back to the nation he gave all for. Such was the case today when the DoD announced that a missing Marine from an almost forgotten epilogue of Vietnam had been identified.
IMMEDIATE RELEASE No. 330-13
May 14, 2013
Marine Missing from Vietnam War to be Buried with Crew
The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office announced today that the remains of a serviceman, missing from the Vietnam War, was recently accounted for and will be buried along with the 12 other servicemen who were lost in the same crash.
Marine Corps Pfc. Daniel A. Benedett of Seattle, Wash., will be buried May 15, at Arlington National Cemetery, along with Air Force 2nd Lt. Richard Vandegeer of Cleveland, Ohio; Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Bernard Gause Jr., of Birmingham, Ala.; Hospitalman Ronald J. Manning of Steubenville, Ohio; Marine Corps servicemen Lance Cpl. Gregory S. Copenhaver of Lewistown, Pa.; Lance Cpl. Andres Garcia of Carlsbad, N.M.; Pfc. Lynn Blessing of Lancaster, Pa.; Pfc. Walter Boyd of Portsmouth, Va.; Pfc. James J. Jacques of La Junta, Colo.; Pfc. James R. Maxwell of Memphis, Tenn.; Pfc. Richard W. Rivernburgh of Schenectady, N.Y.; Pfc. Antonio R. Sandoval of San Antonio, Texas; and Pfc. Kelton R. Turner of St. Louis, Mo.
On May 12, 1975, Khmer Rouge gunboats captured the S.S. Mayaguez in the Gulf of Thailand, approximately 60 nautical miles off the coast of Cambodia. After the vessel was taken to Koh Tang Island, U.S. aircraft began surveillance flights around the island. When efforts to secure the release of the ship and its crew failed, U.S. military forces began a rescue mission.
Three days after the Mayaguez seizure, the Air Force dispatched six helicopters to the island. One of the helicopters came under heavy enemy fire and crashed into the surf with 26 men on board. Thirteen of the men were rescued at sea, leaving Benedett and 12 other service members unaccounted-for from the crash.
Between 1991 and 2008, investigators conducted more than 10 investigations and excavations, led by Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC). On three occasions, Cambodian authorities turned over remains believed to be those of American servicemen. In 1995, U.S. and Cambodian specialists conducted an underwater recovery of the helicopter crash site where they located remains, personal effects and aircraft debris associated with the loss. Between 2000 and 2004, all of the missing service members from this helicopter, except Benedett, were accounted-for.
On Jan. 30, 2013, Benedett was accounted-for. Scientists from JPAC and the Armed Forces Identification Laboratory (AFDIL) used circumstantial evidence and DNA process of elimination to account for his remains.
Welcome home Marine, at long last welcome home.
(Many thanks to Sir John the Merciless, Imperial Armorer for the heads up.)