MIA Sister Knows the Pain of Families of Terror Attack Missing
By Peggy Marish-Boos
Special to American Forces Press Service
ARLINGTON, Va., Sept. 26, 2001 Eva Bernice Dunham knows the feelings of the families of those still missing from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. She's lived those feelings for 50 years.
From atop a hill in Arlington National Cemetery here overlooking the Pentagon, the sister of a Korean War MIA stood in a daze as she watched the black smoke fill the sky that sad day. She had been participating in a burial ceremony with the "Arlington Ladies," a group of volunteers that helps out at services.
"I heard the explosion and my first thought was of the atom bomb," she recalled. "I stood in amazement! We were preparing for our second funeral that morning. Navy Chaplain (Father) Lewis Brown said, 'We will go through with this,' and the family gathered around him."
Smoke filled the sky as the backdrop and sirens screamed throughout the services. Dunham said she thought to herself, "God preserve us." Still stunned, with a blank feeling inside, she feels a concern for all the people -- all the lost lives and those affected by the terrorists' horrific act.
More than 50 years have passed since Nov. 2, 1950, when Dunham and her parents were notified by telegram that her brother, Army Pfc. Charles Henry Lord Jr. of the 1st Cavalry Division, had been captured by communist Chinese forces along the Yalu River during the Battle of Unsan.
Lord died in POW Camp 5 deep in North Korea on July 22, 1951. His remains are still missing.
Ten days after the terror attack, Dunham attended the 22nd annual National POW/MIA Recognition Day ceremony at the national cemetery's amphitheater. "[The] service was beautiful, remembering all our POW and MIAs from past wars, and recognizing, too, America's most recent (losses)," the Jacksonville, Fla., native said.
Army Secretary Tom White, host of this year's remembrance, said of America's obligation to a full accounting of its service members, "We must free families from the prisons of uncertainty."
Guest speaker Orson G. Swindle III, once a POW held by the North Vietnamese, said the families and friends of America's more than 88,000 missing servicemen from all wars deserve closure, a full accounting.
"They deserve nothing less, and that speaks volumes," said Swindle, a commissioner on the U.S. Trade Commission. "Never has it been more important than now to show our resolve, renew our commitment, during this current and future clandestine war.
"Families know firsthand the agony and suffering, the sacrifice, anger, frustration, the faded dreams," Swindle told the audience. "They tell us that life must go on, the grief will end, but these losses will forever change our lives."
Shortly after the ceremony, Dunham said, "It would be easy to give up, but we as Americans don't. We are strong as a nation and we'll go on." She has advice to those who lost family members or friends on Sept. 11.
"The only way to get through hard times -- times one cannot understand -- is through faith. Faith gives us peace. The grief of not knowing for a long time is painful," she said. "I know pain. God is my hope. Look to God. He is a spirit we can (reach) any time -- all the time. He has been my strength, my hope.
Another parallel is the absence of a body to return to the family, she noted. "Most troubling is not having a place to mourn, a place to bring flowers, a final resting place," she said.
Dunham has been an Arlington Lady since 1985 and has assisted at countless funerals in past years. The volunteer service makes her feel useful, she said. Every funeral is different, but the funerals on Sept. 11 will be her most memorable. It was the day of her 73rd birthday.
(Peggy Marish-Boos works in the DoD POW/Missing Personnel Office in Arlington, Va.)