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The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) received several Vietnam War artifacts from the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) at DPAA’s headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, Oct. 29 with the intent of ultimately returning them to Vietnam.
These artifacts, including a wallet containing family photos and an ID card, were collected by veterans during the Vietnam War, brought to the U.S. when they returned home after their tour of duty, and were recently given to the VFW’s leadership in Washington, D.C., so they could be turned over to DPAA.
“For us here in the United States, personal affects have always been something very treasured by family members of the missing,” said Kelly McKeague, DPAA’s director. “Any time our teams can find a wedding ring, a medallion, an ID card, it further connects their loved ones and their loss with the supreme sacrifice.”
DPAA will catalog and analyze these artifacts for any actionable information pertaining to missing DoD personnel before turning them over to the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper will then take them to Vietnam on his next trip and present them to his Vietnamese counterpart.
“For 35 years, the Vietnamese have cooperated with the United States, and for the longest time, finding their missing was not important to them ,” said McKeague. “But that has changed over the last five years because of the example the United States set. The last time VFW membership turned over artifacts, Secretary Esper presented a couple of those artifacts to his counterpart, Minister Ngô Xuân Lịch, who was gracious and very appreciative of having that tangible evidence to be able to turn over to a family member.”
The VFW has been running this Vietnam artifact turnover program for about a year and a half, turning over a total of four sets of items to DPAA during that time, and plans to continue for as long as members keep participating.
VFW Executive Director BJ Lawrence, who brought the artifacts to DPAA for the handover, asked VFW members and their families to keep this program alive.
“On behalf of our national commander in chief, Hal Roesch, and our entire organization, I would encourage you to continue keeping this program alive,” said Lawrence. “I would ask that you continue sending any information or artifacts to the Washington, D.C. VFW headquarters building, so we can continue this program and continue to turn these items over to DPAA in an effort to continue those great relationships that we enjoy, and to continue keeping our mission alive, that no one is left behind and we will always remember.”
Video of the event can be viewed at: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=375866250273240
For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for Americans who went missing while serving our country, visit the DPAA website at www.dpaa.mil, find us on social media at www.facebook.com/dodpaa or call (703) 699-1420/1193.