Keating Reflects on POW/MIA Mission Ahead of Retirement
By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jul. 23, 2009 Nearing the end of his 42-year career in the Navy, Adm. Timothy J. Keating today reflected on those who served alongside him, giving special emphasis to troops whose fates remain unknown.
Keating, the commander of U.S. Pacific Command, addressed the National League of POW/MIA Families, a group that strives to account for the more than 1,750 veterans of Vietnam and other wars still missing.
“We’re going to do whatever it takes, with appropriate support, to have you reach some sort of conclusion in your minds and in your hearts as to where your loved one is,” he said at the group’s 40th anniversary annual meeting. “We’re not going to rest.”
For the 90 days until his retirement from active duty, Keating is slated to remain at the helm of the U.S. Pacific Command in Hawaii, which also serves as headquarters of a task force responsible for POW/MIA accounting.
Keating told the audience that the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command does everything in its power to provide accountability.
“We want to be able to do that last muster,” he said. “If not present, then accounted for. Nothing’s more important to us.”
The admiral paced the room and spoke without prepared notes, delivering an address filled with colorful anecdotes about his years in uniform and the personnel – ranking above, beside and below him – who shaped his military career.
“I’m proud to wear a couple of these ribbons because they recommend a certain period of service, a certain caliber of men and women,” he said, pointing to the patchwork of military ribbons and honors on his chest.
“Now make no mistake, the kids you see around us this morning – the young professionals you see around us this morning – they’re the best military, the best armed forces the world has ever known,” he added. “I get to go to work with them every day, they keep us moving.
“But I’m reminded of great Americans who saluted…and off they went, and they haven’t come back yet,” he said.
Referring to the iconic black-and-white POW/MIA flag that features the silhouette of a servicemember set against a prison camp backdrop, Keating called the banner emblematic of commitment and honor.
“It’s a symbol of your commitment, your honor, your courage and we pay close attention to that,” he told the audience. “Each of your names, and the names of your loved ones – the name of the guy or girl that causes you to be in this room today – your names will be written in gold in the pages of history. You have earned that privilege.”