(126) When Microchipping Doesn’t Help: POW/MIA

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Golly, Miss Molly

A Blog about a Service Dog and her Veteran with PTSD

(Supporting the Veteran and the Family Caregiver)

The Microchipped Pet

When Molly came home with us, our first trip with her landed us in the veterinarian’s office. We needed her microchipped because of her value as a service animal. The nurse’s quick scan told us she already bore a chip beneath her shaggy coat. While she never wanders too far from home, the microchip will make sure Molly returns to us if she gets lost in pursuit of deer or wild turkeys.

Not just service animals are microchipped. Millions of owners of canines in the US bought the same insurance to bring their pets home if lost. Rabbits, cats, penguins, large birds, farm animals, and Guinea pigs often receive the chip for their recovery, as well. Lost animals with this identification method are often reunited quickly with their families.

If only it could be that easy to bring home our warriors lost or imprisoned in war.

National POW/MIA Recognition Day

Let it be known far and wide around this great nation and around this great world that this nation does not forget its POWs, and for certain, does not forget its MIAs and the families they represent.

September 18, 2015, is National POW/MIA Recognition Day. July 18, 1979, was the first time to publically acknowledge and recognize Prisoners of War (POW) and those Missing in Action (MIA). Today, the third Friday in September, we reflect on those who were imprisoned during war and the 83,000 whose bodies still remain lost. The American Legion advocates for POWs and MIAs. The Legion describes the intent of this day as honoring “the commitment and sacrifices made by this nation’s prisoners of war and those who are still missing in action, as well as their families.” (The American Legion)

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency reports that out of the 83,000 still missing, 75 percent were lost in Asia-Pacific and over 41,000 are presumed lost at sea. (Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency) The breakdown of the total missing personnel is as follows:

  • World War II, 73,515
  • Korean War, 7,841
  • Vietnam War, 1,626
  • Cold War, 126
  • Iraq and other conflicts, 6

Responsibility to Account for US Service Members

As of 2011, responsibility to account for our Service Members rests with the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office, which is now the Department of Defense (DoD). The DoD is tasked with not only accounting for but finding and bringing home our Service Members. “This includes rescue, recovery, and reintegration of captured or missing personnel through diplomatic means . . . . The policy of the US to never offer remuneration for the return of captured personnel, serves as a deterrent to hostage takers and is one of the keys to protecting our service members.”

The efforts of the DoD to recover our MIAs appears extraordinary, with the most recent listed Service Member recovery being 1st Lt. Alexander Bonnyman, USMC, Company F., 2nd battalion, Marines Regiment, Marine Division. Lt. Bonnyman was accounted for on August 27 of this year. He was lost for 73 years in Tawara (2,400 miles south of Pearl Harbor) on November 22, 1943.

Reduction in Number Lost

Seeing the reduction in the number of Service Members missing in action from WWII to the present by conflict reveals significant improvements. The DoD suggested that the reduction in MIAs is attributed to preventing or preparing Service Members, civilians, and contractors for isolation, and training to provide proper  response in the event they are captured. The DoD credits technology, comprehensive planning, training and education, and improved command and control as additional reasons for the decline.

Still, even one missing Service Member is one too many but what a relief to know that the DoD is diligent about this effort and is having a huge impact upon the families of warriors who are being brought home with dignity and honor.

Bringing Her Home

Molly snuck out one evening when I welcomed a friend into our home. Thinking she was sleeping in the closet, I turned off lights and headed to bed after visiting with my friend. Moments later, two young people knocked on the door with Miss Molly in tow.

“Is this your dog? I think her tag said she lives here.” The young woman stroked Molly’s ears.

William and I expressed our gratitude. We spent the next hour loving Molly, rejoicing with her repatriation to the safety of our home.

How much more so must a family feel when their warrior or loved one returns home? Offering a sense of closure, knowing they are now home, must bring tremendous peace and yet so much sorrow. This gift offers dignity to the Service Member and the family that grieved so long not knowing . . . . Now, only peace and honor intertwine with the American flag as the warrior is laid to rest. He is no longer missing in action. He is finally home.

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Are you surprised by the statistics of the number of Service Members still MIA? Please reply below.

Sources cited:

About the blogger

Dr. Penelope “Penny” Culbreth-Graft is a retired city manager and graduate professor. She lives with her disabled Vietnam Veteran husband, William, and his service dog, Molly, on Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado. She writes, paints, cares for her husband, and spends time with her granddaughter.