During a Friday visit to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, the secretary of defense visited the agency charged with attempting to locate, identify and return to families the remains of service members who were lost in combat.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III told the civilian and military personnel at the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency that their mission not only brings closure to families whose loved one never came home from conflict, but it also provides confidence to those who are in the fight today.
"You have a more profound impact on the business than you can imagine," said Austin. "I spent a lot of time in combat and told them that, whatever happens, I would never leave them if they went down; I would come to get them. That instills great confidence in them and allows them to fight fiercely. No other country in the world can make that claim."
During his tour of DPAA, Austin was able to see the research areas and labs and meet the professionals who work to return home the U.S. service members who were lost during World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the Cold War. Today, more than 81,000 Americans remain missing from those conflicts. DPAA aims to locate them and return them to the United States.
On missions to recover remains, DPAA personnel travel around the globe to locations where service members once fought or where aircraft may have gone down. Many times those locations are still dangerous decades after conflict has ended.
"It's dangerous; it's hard; it's tedious ... but the fact that we have people like you who are committed to do what you're doing is just absolutely terrific, and it sets us apart and it makes us different, so I want to thank you for what you do," Austin said. "I want to encourage you to keep doing it, and I really applaud the teamwork and the camaraderie."