Mission Fulfills Sacred Pledge, POW/MIA Official Says
By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jul. 23, 2013 No matter what it takes, no matter how long it takes, the nation must continue to fulfill its sacred pledge to account for its missing warriors, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for prisoner of war and missing personnel affairs said today.
“We honor the sacrifices of our missing and the sacrifices of their families," W. Montague “Q” Winfield told attendees at the Veterans of Foreign Wars national convention in Louisville, Ky.
Winfield, also the director of the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office, leads the national effort to achieve the fullest possible accounting of the more than 83,000 warriors lost while serving the United States. He also is responsible for limiting the loss and capture of Americans serving abroad in current operations.
In the last year, Winfield said, the Joint Prisoners of War, Missing in Action Accounting Command has accounted for 64 missing warriors -- seven from World War II, 40 from the Korean War and 17 from the Vietnam War.
Additionally, the White House recently approved the charter for a joint U.S.-Russia commission. "This is a wonderful, wonderful advancement," he said, "because it will allow us to increase our bilateral relationship with our Russian counterparts as we seek to get more access to their archives."
One of the most important aspects of his job is meeting with family members of missing service members, Winfield said. One of those family members recently showed him a letter written from Vietnam in late 1970 by Army Sgt. George C. Green Jr., a radio operator in the 5th Special Forces Group.
"In the last paragraph of what was to be his last letter home to his mom, he wrote, 'If I am killed, no one will ever recover my body, because I don't want anyone to risk their life for this worthless piece of clay,'” Winfield said.
In December 1970, Green’s reconnaissance patrol in Laos was engaged by an enemy force, and he was killed during the firefight.
“Because of the intensity of that firefight, his team had to leave his remains behind,” Winfield said. “Like thousands before him, Sergeant Green answered the call to duty. Like thousands before him, Sergeant Green was a humble soldier. Like thousands before him, Sergeant Green laid down his life for his brothers in arms. Like thousands before him, Sergeant Green paid the price for our freedom with his life.
“Sergeant Green may have felt that he was a worthless piece of clay, but to us, he was and is an American hero, deserving our nation's highest priority and enduring effort,” Winfield continued. “He is not forgotten."
A widow once told him that people don’t appreciate a funeral until there isn’t one, Winfield said.
“The men and women of the accounting community are dedicated [and] committed to doing everything humanly possible to account for America's heroes -- those who are still missing. We believe in that mission,” he said.