North Korea Returns Presumed U.S. Remains

“The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States is incredibly encouraged by the news that North Korea has returned 55 boxes of remains believed to be U.S. service members who have been missing in action since the Korean War,” said VFW National Commander B.J. Lawrence. “This is a huge step in the right direction that we hope will finally bring peace to the peninsula and closure to American families who have been waiting more than six decades for their loved ones to return home from their war.” The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency lists 7,691 missing Americans from the Korean War, with some 5,300 believed to be in North Korea. DPAA also lists 111 Cold War losses in the vicinity of the Korean peninsula. The VFW sent a letter to President Trump in advance of the June 12 Singapore summit to urge him to include the return of American remains as a discussion point with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. “The return of our missing is a humanitarian mission that transcends politics,” Lawrence said.

POW/MIA DNA Samples Needed

The Department of Defense wants family members of all veterans that are MIA to give a DNA sample. To submit DNA samples, call Army at (800) 982-2490; Marines at (866) 210-3421; Navy at (800) 443-9298; Air Force at (800) 531-5803; Coast Guard at (202) 795-6637. Have the following information available when you call: Your relation to the veteran; The war they were in; The time period; Where they were stationed; Service number; and approximate time they became missing. Once this is received, a test kit with all instructions will be mailed. Send the test back once it is completed. The kit is free. The time frame is about two weeks to get the results, if the veteran’s DNA is on file. It should be noted that once all family members become deceased, it is impossible to identify the remains.

Senate Hearing on Blue Water Navy, Korean DMZ & Thailand Vets

Retired VFW National Veterans Service Director Gerald Manar, a Blue Water Navy veteran, testified on behalf of the VFW in support of several important bills being considered at a Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs hearing Wednesday. The primary focus of the hearing was H.R. 299, which would expand Agent Orange-related benefits to Blue Water Navy veterans who served in the coastal waters of Vietnam during the Vietnam War. The VFW-supported bill would also expand benefits to Korean DMZ veterans who were exposed to harmful toxins in 1967, and children born with spina bifida due to a parent’s exposure during service in Thailand. While H.R. 299 faced strong opposition by VA, committee members expressed overwhelming support and urged the Senate to pass it soon. H.R. 299 has already cleared the House with a unanimous vote of 382-0. Manar also offered the VFW’s support for legislation to expand VA dental care benefits; improve the Transition Assistance Program; increase burial plot allowances for veterans buried in private cemeteries; and a bill to require VA to manage and improve the Mare Island Naval Cemetery, which has fallen into disrepair since the Mare Island Naval Shipyard was closed.

Important Dates in August

Aug. 4 – Coast Guard’s 228th Birthday

Aug. 7 – Purple Heart Day

Aug. 8 – VJ Day (Victory over Japan, 1945)

Aug. 29 – Marine Forces Reserve’s 102nd Birthday

POW/MIA Update

Pittsburgh Korean War Veteran remains recovered: Army Sgt. William A. Larkins, 20, a Korean War veteran from Pittsburgh, accounted for last year, will be buried Aug. 10 in nearby Bridgeville, Pa. In late November 1950, Larkins was a member of A Battery, 503rd Field Artillery Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division, fighting in the Ch’ongch’on River region of North Korea. On Dec. 1, his battalion began moving under continuous fire toward the town of Sunchon. Larkins was reported as missing in action. It would be later learned he had been captured and died at a POW camp in January 1951.

Navy Fireman 1st Class Chester E. Seaton, 20, a WWII veteran from Omaha, Neb., was accounted for last year and will be buried Aug. 8 in Tacoma Washington.

Army Cpl. Terrell J. Fuller, 20, a Korean war veteran, was accounted for this spring and will be buried Aug. 11 in his hometown of Toccoa, Ga.

Army Pfc. Leslie Shankles, 34, a WWII veteran from Vernon County, Mo., was a member of Company C, 1st Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division. Interment services are pending.

Marine Corps Cpl. Claire E. Goldtrap, 21, of Hobart, Okla., was assigned to Company A, 2nd Amphibian Tractor Battalion, 2nd Marine Division. Interment services are pending.

Marine Corps Reserve Pfc. Robert L. Zehetner, a WWII veteran from Brooksville, Fla., was a member of Company F, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division. Interment services are pending.

Marine Corps Reserve Pfc. Merton R. Riser, a WWII veteran from Sanborn, Iowa, was a member of Company K, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division. Interment services are pending.

Army Air Forces Capt. Lawrence E. Dickson, 24, a WWII veteran from Bronx, N.Y., was a P-51D Mustang pilot with the 100th Fighter Squadron, 332nd Fighter Group, the famed Tuskegee Airmen. Interment services are pending.

Till next week, praying for all service members.


– Charles Castelluccio