It is estimated that 478 Maine veterans remain missing since World War II. Nationally, the number is closer to 82,000.
For Debora Couture, the state commander for the American Legion Department in Maine, her uncle, WWII veteran Lawrence Pierce of Livermore Falls, is one of them. Terrence Hanley, a family friend and Vietnam veteran, is another.
According to Couture, Pierce’s plane crashed over the inaccessible mountains of Greenland on its way to Europe in 1943 and was never recovered. Today his name is engraved on a monument in Livermore Falls, which Couture has said after all the years brings him closure knowing he will not return.
Hanley, according to the Defense POW / MIA Accounting Agency, served as a lieutenant with Heavy Photographic Squadron 61. He was on a night reconnaissance mission off North Vietnam on New Year’s Day 1968 when his plane disappeared from radar. Despite a three-day search, Hanley and the other two on board were also never found.
âParents will die, siblings and everything in between and will never know exactly what happened to their family members,â Couture said. “It’s so important to remember that.”
Friday, September 17 – National POW / Missing in Action Appreciation Day – Brunswick American Legion Station 20 will be holding a vigil in the city mall to do just that: remember.
“If we forget it, nothing will ever happen,” said Joe Donahue, a Vietnam veteran and one of the organizers of the vigil.
Brunswick’s tribute will specifically honor the 11 Mainers – of the estimated 1,600 nationwide – who remain unaccounted for in the Vietnam War. In addition, the cap. We will also remember Gerald L. Smith, a resident of Brunswick and one of the 45 Mainers still missing from the Korean War.
The vigil has been taking place in Brunswick for about 10 years, Donohue said, but was more recently moved to the mall in an attempt to attract more audiences. Donohue said he hopes the vigil will motivate the public to ask government officials to do more work to locate the missing.
âIf you don’t see it, you forget it,â Donohue said. “The idea is to make sure that we continue to have our representatives in Congress continue to stress that we want their remains returned or information regarding their remains.”
The vigil will consist of a prayer and a symbolic round table with five unattended place settings, representing the five branches of the army. An active member from each branch will be present.
“For some people the MIA / POW has little or no meaning or importance, but for veterans, for families of veterans, especially those who have lost veterans or have no no responsibility, it has a very deep and personal meaning, “said Councilor David Watson. “We cannot forget.”
Watson, who served in the United States Air Force from 1966 to 1970, is also the American Legion Post Commander in Brunswick. For many veteran families, Watson said, having leftovers or knowing what happened leads to shutdown.
âIt’s the politicians who actually wage war, but they don’t wage war. They let the kids do that, âWatson said. âIt is important that we recover these people, it is important. We want to recover these people, either alive or these remains. “
In 2017, The Times Record reported that Maine Vietnam’s list of missing veterans was 12 years, until the remains of Junior Lt. Neil Taylor of Rangeley were found and returned after 50 years.
According to a 2015 report from the Portland Press Herald, a forensic military unit spent years searching a paddy field and was ultimately able to confirm by DNA that it had found its remains.
The Defense POW / MIA Accounting Agency is the US entity responsible for accounting for personnel who disappeared in wars dating back to World War II.
The organization is based in Hawaii and DC and reports that of the approximately 81,600 missing veterans, 75% of the losses are located in the Indo-Pacific and more than 41,000 of the missing are believed to be lost at sea.
The missing Vietnam veterans who will be honored on Friday include Malcolm Avore, Peter Vlahakos, Joseph Musetti Jr., Terrence Hanley, John Brooks, John Huntley, Carl Churchill, William Sanders, Richard Dority and two others whose families have requested that the names are withheld.
The vigil will take place from 11 a.m. to noon.
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