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Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany


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MCLB Albany hosts 14th annual POW/MIA breakfast

By Lance Cpl. Michael Kjaer | | September 14, 2000

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Marines, Sailors, retirees and civilian employees gathered Friday at the Crossroad restaurant for the 14th annual POW/MIA recognition breakfast. The breakfast is held to pay tribute to Americans who were prisoners of war and to remember Americans who remain missing and action and unaccounted for. The guest speaker was retired Army Capt. Tommy Clack, a veteran of the Vietnam War. Clack, who is a native of Decatur, Ga., reported that the nation honors soldiers, airmen, Sailors and Marines who return from combat, but often forget those who do not return. We must pursue, with all diligence, every American service member who remains missing, Clack said. There must be a full accounting or as close to it as possible. Our government must know that this is a serious issue with Americans. To emphasize his point, Clack related his experience in Vietnam with a joint operations group. The groups mission was to airlift servicemen who were downed in hostile territory when their aircraft crashed. We expended every effort to get them out, said Clack, recalling an incident when two men died and three helicopters were shot down to retrieve a pilot. Thats how serious it was to us, as Americans. We did not want to leave anyone behind, and I believe all Americans feel that way. Returned POWs shared three concepts during their captivity, Clack reported. All the POWs Ive talked to said these three thoughts are what kept them going, I know my family loves me and needs me; I know my government is going to get me out of here; and, I believe this is part of Gods process for my life. Clack also reported that American MIAs are not restricted to the Vietnam War. Some 78,000 remain unaccounted for from World War II, and more than 8,000 are still missing in Korea. We are searching for all MIAs, Clack said. We are only allowed to sear 10 sites per year under the current agreement with the Republic of Vietnam. At that rate, nature will claim most of those Americans unrepatriated remains. So, its important for people to pressure our government to demand more Americans be given more access from the governments of Southeast Asia. Clack reported he hopes for a full accounting within his lifetime. We have the technology and the ability, he said, but only the support of the American people and their demand for a full accounting will bring them home. The father of two declared his belief that any government that can afford a war and can ask its military forces to fight, it can also afford to take care its service members who die in that war. This is a great event, Clack said, but honoring our POWs and remembering those still missing should not be a once-a-year event. We should remember their sacrifices for our freedom every day. John Daniels is an Albany resident and a Southwest Georgia native who served with the Armys 36th Infantry Division during World War II. He was captured in January 1944 while crossing Italys Rapido River with the 131st Infantry Regiment. During his captivity Daniels was transferred to Stalag Luft 1 near Berlin, where he was liberated in May of 1945. Despite his status as a returned POW, Daniels was assigned combat duty during the Korean War and, because he served as an ambulance driver, narrowly escaped being captured a second time. Before I reenlisted, the Army assured me I wouldnt have to go into combat again, Daniels reported during the breakfast Friday. But, I understand why they sent me [to Korea]. The Koreans were shooting American soldiers, and somebody had to drive the ambulances to get those boys out of the combat zone. I was just one somebody. And Id do it all again, for my country, said Daniels, who sustained combat injuries during both wars, although Im still paying for it. He continues to have medical problems, including 85 percent hearing loss, directly related to his injuries and his time in captivity. Col. Charles V. Mugno, MCLB Albanys commanding officer, welcomed the returned POWs and their guests at the breakfast, and talked about the horror associated of not knowing if a missing loved one, especially a son, is dead or alive. I remember a conversation I had with my wife, many years ago, in which I remarked that a childs death had to be the hardest thing a parent could face, Mugno said. She said, No, it isnt having a child missing would be worse. Not knowing is the hardest, Mugno continued. That is why its so important that we bring our unaccounted for service men and women home again.
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