Memorial Day Reflection
May 27, 2019
by The Resource Group
There is a well-known promise in the US Military ‘leave no one behind’; unfortunately, throughout war this still occurs. Sixteen million Americans served on the front lines during World War II and it is estimated that 407,316 casualties occurred. Out of these casualties, 72,000 service members remain unaccounted for from World War II and about 7,800 from the Korean War. As a member of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, my job was to ensure the promise of leaving no-one behind remains true. While on a trip to Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, our group was looking for remains of service members from the Korean War.
Once we identify the site, we set up a grid system of where we want to excavate. From there the daily process is the same until the site is completely excavated:
1. Excavate each grid until sterile soil is reached
2. Screen the backfill for evidence of remains
Since we are working against 70+ years of geographical changes, we normally start with our larger excavation tools to remove dirt and debris out of the way-shovels, pick axes, and in some cases excavators can be used. Sometimes we are able to find a small bone, a uniform piece, such as a button, or a jewelry through screening. Once this occurs, everything freezes for a moment as we rush to switch our gear to smaller brushes, picks, & hammers. On most occasions we are only able to find aircraft scraps or spent ammunition, sometimes just enough to identify the country of origin or verify that there was a battle in the area.
On this particular mission, we started off digging as we normally do and came across a boot. Swapping out our large shovels for our smaller excavation tools, we continued digging and were able to excavate the complete remains of a U.S. serviceman, still in his uniform. As we continued to examine the remains we were able to recover a wallet from the uniform. In it was a picture of a young lady, presumably a loved one, as well as, a copy of a Bronze Star citation for charging a German machine gun nest during World War II, presumably his own. This find was extremely rewarding, not only because of the completeness of the remains, but because of the personal reminder of sacrifice this individual made to our country and to his loved ones.
Across the country, Memorial Day is represented by barbeques, picnics, cookouts, and the celebration to the start of summer and it can be easy to forget the original intent of this holiday. This Memorial Day, as we go about our celebrations, we invite you to take a moment to reflect on those who have protected our freedom to celebrate and gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country. The best tribute to all of our brave service members is to ensure we remember, recognize, and embrace the freedoms their sacrifices have afforded us by living a happy life. At 3pm on Memorial Day, I encourage you to join in the national moment of silence for those who gave their all for this country and its people.