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When service members take an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States, they do so knowing that they may be called upon to make great sacrifices to ensure and sustain our shared values. These patriots accept those risks and rush to fulfill the mission, no matter how harsh or dangerous the conditions. They embody the best of the American spirit. Read full presidential proclamation.
More than 80,000 American service personnel are missing from previous conflicts and 38,000 are estimated to be recoverable. The Defense POW/MIA Agency remains relentless in its mission to provide the fullest possible accounting to their families and the nation, until they're home.
~ Judi Boyer Bourchard
The process begins with analysis and investigation.
A case file is created for each unaccounted for American and is continually updated until an identification is made.
Before a decision is made to disinter, DPAA must have a percentage of DNA sample from relatives of the unknown service member believed to be in the grave.
During the investigation, representatives interview potential witnesses, conduct on-site recon and survey terrain.
If enough onsite evidence is found, the site will be recommended for recovery and excavation.
Evidence is transported to the DPAA lab for identification.
The identification process takes months to years. DPAA uses multiple lines of evidence to ensure ID: historical evidence (like medical records), DNA, forensic anthropology, forensic odontology (teeth), archeology and material evidence.
Identified Americans are returned to families via respective services.
Each year, DPAA conducts investigation-and-recovery team missions around the world to search last known locations of missing American service members. These missions last weeks and comprise personnel with varied expertise – from explosive ordnance technicians to mountaineers. And the locations are as diverse, often remote areas, sometimes underwater and sometimes in mountainous regions like this July 2021 excavation in Vietnam’s Quang Nam Province.
Members of a Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) recovery team sift through dirt during a recovery mission in Sarentino, Italy, July 29, 2019. A team of 24 U.S. service members, and government employees were part of a recovery team deployed to the area in hopes of recovering U.S. service members missing from World War II. The mission of DPAA is to provide the fullest possible accounting for our missing personnel to their families and the nation.
Her son was 28 days old when his father died. She never remarried. And after 50 years, the wait ended for the wife and son of Marine Corps Capt. John House, who was killed when his helicopter crashed in Vietnam in 1967. House was identified in 2017, and laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery, Sept. 27, 2018.
We invite you to browse our collection of profiles for those who served and remain unaccounted for from the Vietnam War, Cold War, Korean War and World War II.
The POW/MIA Missing Man Table ceremony is a dignified and solemn moment in many formal dinners and other occasions. There have been many different narratives written for the ceremony, but the symbolism is quite constant. There is nothing more poignant than witnessing the empty chair sitting at a POW/MIA table . The ceremony is performed many times, throughout the year, at official military events in remembrance and in honor of all POW/MIAs.
The Department of Defense provides the military forces needed to deter war and ensure our nation's security.