PORTLAND, Maine—It has been more than seven decades since World War II veteran Gene Costill saw his brother. Costill’s brother, Harold, was killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941. Harold’s remains have never been accounted for.
“The whole family looked forward to him coming home,” said Costill, 90, with tears in his eyes. “I’m the only one left.”
Costill, among nearly 200 other family members with missing loved ones from past wars, attended a government briefing by the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Accounting Agency, in Portland, Maine, Nov. 14.
Sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, cousins, and grandchildren all had their own story to tell: the story of a loved one - who most of them never knew - who never returned from war.
Bill Paschal was two years old when his uncle, Herbert Prentice, left for the Korean War. Paschal never met his mother’s brother, but he remains determined to bring his family closure.
“I want what everyone else wants,” said Paschal. “I want to bring home our lost GIs.”
Paschal said that Prentice was lost in the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea, Dec. 12, 1950.
“I have gotten to the realization that unless remains have been recovered and not yet identified, or unless we can get back into North Korea, there is not much we can do,” said Paschal.
DPAA conducts multiple briefings around the country each year to speak with families of missing loved ones. Forensic anthropologists and medical examiners speak with the families about excavation methods, excavation sites and advances in DNA technology.
The Armed Forces DNA Identification Lab, out of Dover Air Force Base in Delaware attended, gathering cheek swabs for DNA samples from family members in attendance, hoping to identify any remains through DNA.
Dozens of families shared their stories during the briefing, telling the circumstances of their loved ones’ losses. One woman, however, had a slightly different story.
Carol Start’s uncle, Sgt. Christopher Vars, went missing in Korea 65 years ago. Two months ago, he was returned home and buried with full military honors.
“I just knew in my heart, he was coming home,” said Start. “We have our closure.”
Start’s story gave hope to family members who are still searching for their loved ones.
“I don’t have that much time left,” said Costill. “If I’m ever going to see this come to a conclusion, it has to be soon.”
More than 83,000 service members remain missing from World War II, the Vietnam War, the Korean War and the Cold War.