Gone but Never Forgotten

By U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Leah Ferrante Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency

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Washington DC—The unique mission of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency brings hope and answers to the families who are still missing loved ones from the Vietnam War era. It states in DPAA’s mission statement that they will provide the fullest possible accounting for our missing personnel to their families and the nation.

With this statement comes great commitment, and on April 7th 2001, seven U.S. Service members and nine Vietnamese military men paid the ultimate price trying to fulfill that promise when their M-17 helicopter went down on their way to survey proposed sites that had possible POW/MIA remains around the Quang Binh providence. Investigations determined the crash was due to deteriorating weather conditions and poor visibility.

“It was probably the toughest assignment I ever had,” said Ann Mills G., president of the League of POW/MIA Families. “Never ever did we, the POW/MIA family think that possibly we could lose some of our fine young people who were out conducting recovery missions for our missing family members.”

This year marked the 15th anniversary of the tragic event that took the lives of fathers, sons, brothers and husbands. However, their legacy will forever be seen in the halls of the Pentagon where a plaque has been hung in honor of all service members who have been killed fulfilling DPAA’s mission.

“We never leave a fallen comrade,” said U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley during the ceremony for the plaque unveiling. “Even if the risk, or even if it’s the cost of our own life, we will bring our fellow fallen Marines, Airmen, Soldiers and Sailors back home.”

The ceremony was a beautiful way to show gratitude to these service members and their families who suffered a great loss over 15 years ago. The families of the deceased were personally invited from all over the country to come meet with Milley and attend the ceremony as a thank you for their great sacrifice to this mission.

“We traveled to DC to represent him, his life and legacy,” said Pachetta T. Draft-Murphy, spouse to deceased Sgt. 1st Class Tommy L. Murphy.

Pachetta, accompanied by her daughter, Zamora Draft-Murphy, was only four at the time of her father’s tragic accident. However, they weren’t alone, joining them were the other families who had lost their loved one that day.

“I felt so honored to be there, because we never got the chance to grieve with the other families. Just to share and realized that other people felt the way that we did was comforting, it was wonderful,” said Draft-Murphy.

The families watched as the plaque in honor of their loved ones was unveiled, and now hangs in the POW/MIA memorial hallway of the Pentagon. After the ceremony, the families were invited to attend the 47th Annual League of POW/MIA Families banquet where a special tribute was done in their honor.

Although there was great tragedy, the mission to recover our fallen heroes still continues. The League of POW/MIA families and DPAA will always remember U.S. Army Lt. Col. Rennie M. Cory Jr., Detachment 2 commander; U.S. Army Lt. Col. George D. Martin, incoming Detachment 2 commander; U.S. Air Force Maj. Charles E. Lewis, Detachment 2 deputy commander; U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Steven L. Moser and Air Force Technical Sgt. Robert M. Flynn, both linguists; U.S. Army Sgt. First Class Tommy L. Murphy, Central Identification Laboratory Hawaii, and Navy Hospital Corpsman Chief Pedro J. Gonzales.
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