DoD POW/MIA Accounting Agency Meets With Families of MIAs

By MC3 Clifford Bailey

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Until They Are Home.

Keeping the Promise.

These are the stirring mottos of two former government POW/MIA recovery and accounting organizations now merged into the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA). They are charged with the mission ito provide the fullest possible accounting for our missing personnel to their families and the nation.

Vital to that mission is keeping the families up to date on the progress of finding their loved ones’ remains and this is accomplished by facilitating periodic Family Member Update (FMU) events across the nation.

These events are conducted by DPAA up to eight times a year in major metropolitan areas across the country. At these events, family members of MIAs have an opportunity to hear from government officials – in group settings or one-on-one discussions – to learn how the search is going.

Sacramento was where first FMU of calendar year 2015 was hosted.

On February 21st, over 250 people attended the event at the Crowne Plaza Sacramento Northeast. In addition to gaining new information regarding their respective cases, the families are also able to connect with one another and share their personal stories.

“It makes me feel not quite alone,” says Vera Bigham. She represents her husband, Capt. Donald G. Bigham, who went missing during a combat operation in the Korean War. “These other people, especially the wives, are in the same situation.”

“You hear the others, and you’re with other people who feel the same,” Jacqueline Kurtz-Biggs said, who attended on behalf of her uncle, Captain David C. Bryant, Jr., an MIA from WWII. “You’re not alone.”

Loneliness; a missing piece; having someone significant from one’s life ripped away without any answers is a common theme among the families at the FMU. Among those family members interviewed, all ten expressed how their families’ lives have been profoundly changed by the loss.

“She spent most of her adulthood depressed,” said MaryAnn Haberle of her mother. MaryAnn attended the FMU with her brother, Robert, and they’re representing their father, Lieutenant William Joseph Haberle, a radar operator on a B-29 bomber that was shot down during the Korean War. “The fact that he was missing, declared dead but never found, I think she never gave up hope,” MaryAnn said.

There is solace in community, and though there may not be closure, at least there can be answers.

“It would feel good that he’s brought home,” said Robert. “We do have a place next to my mother where he would be interred…but it’s obviously not going to change what happened.”

When assured by a DPAA employee that the effort will continue, Jacqueline said, “That means so much.”

It is for Jacqueline, Robert and MaryAnn, for Vera and all the families in attendance and all who have family members who never made it back that the DPAA soldiers on tirelessly, to keep the promise until they are home.

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