The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office announced on Aug. 27 that the remains of three U.S. servicemen, missing in action from the Vietnam War, were recently identified and are being returned to their families for burial with full military honors.
The announcement hit home with many former members of America's armed forces and, in Marin, it resonated with the members of the , a newly formed organization. On Saturday, Sept. 15, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., MAAS will host the first celebration to honor military veterans and their families as a recognition to the prisoners of war and missing in action in a ceremoney at the Marin County Veterans Memorial Auditorium in San Rafael. The nonprofit MAAS is assembled to honor our veterans through service and celebration in Marin.
The federal Governement identified the long-missing servicemen as Army Sgt. 1st Class William T. Brown, 24, of La Habra, Calif., Sgt. 1st Class Donald M. Shue, 20, of Kannapolis, N.C., and Sgt. 1st Class Gunther H. Wald, 25, of Palisades Park, N.J. Their bodies were to be buried Aug. 30 in a single casket representing the three soldiers, in Arlington National Cemetery. Brown and Shue were each individually buried on Sept. 26, 2011, at Arlington and May 1 in Kannapolis, N.C.
On Nov. 3, 1969, the men and six Vietnamese soldiers were part of a Special Forces reconnaissance patrol operating in Quang Tri Province, near the Vietnam-Laos border. The patrol was ambushed by enemy forces and all three Americans were wounded. Brown was reported to have suffered a gunshot wound to his side. Due to heavy enemy presence and poor weather conditions the search-and-rescue team was not able to reach the site until eight days later. At that time, they found military equipment belonging to Shue, but no other signs of the men.
This story is among many over the years of service personnel returning to their families after many year of missing in action. There are more than 83,000 Americans missing from World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War, the Vietnam War and the 1991 Gulf War. Hundreds of men and women from the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office working in organizations around the world to find the missing and bring them home.
The first official commemoration of this day to honor America’s POWs and MIAs took place in 1979. The day is observed across the nation on the third Friday of September of each year. Many Americans take the time to remember those who were POWs and those who are MIA, as well as their families. This day has never been officially celebrated in Marin County.
The MAAS invites the general public to a free event Sept. 15 to bring families, friends and associates to show our country that Marin is involved in this national celebration. The program will include presentation of colors and service flags, recognition of all veterans, entertainment, guest speakers, a military flyover, and a hosted reception to follow.
Performers will include The Air National Guard Band of the West Coast led by Sgt. Dan Olivas and Senior Airman Megan Hokaj of the USAF Band Of The Golden West.
Guest Speakers will be:
- LTC Colonel Steve Countouriotis, U.S. Army. Retired after 30 years of active and reserve service.
- CDR Larry Friese, USMC. Retired after 20 years of active service.
- Sascha Jansen who is a Vice Commander of The Bay Area Civilian Ex-POW organization.
The mission of the Marin Alliance for the American Spirit is to develop and present educational/informational programs that will foster patriotism and a sense of community and to host events which will honor all veterans and those currently serving along with their families.
Event sponsors include the Marin County Board of Supervisors and Patriot Beverage Company.
Additional support include the Marin County United Veterans Council, Marin County Department of Health and Human Services, US Army- National Guard, United States Coast Guard, Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), Blue Star Moms, Novato Professional Firefighters Association, House of Steel-United States Marine Corps, Woodlands Market, Mollie Stone’s Markets, United Markets, Bay City Riders, Red Cross, Salvation Army, DeNador & Associates and the Garbarino Family.
For more information contact Keith Woodcock, MAAS President, at 800-438-8988.
Tomas Kaselionis is an elected board member on the Novato Fire District Board of Directors and serves as a reservist for the U.S. Coast Guard-Pacific Strike Team in Novato.