Are our boys really home?
Yesterday, 55 remains of presumed American fallen soldiers from the Korean War were welcomed home in a ceremony conducted by Vice President, Mike Pence. At Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii, Pence addressed the thousands of missing soldiers from the war and how the U.S. has been working hard since then to recover as many fallen soldiers as possible. Pence emphasized to the crowd:
“Today, our boys are coming home.”
But are they really?
As a millenial, I do not possess any recollection of the Korean War. I do not have a loved one or even a neighbor who fought in the war. In fact, for the longest time, until about two years ago, I didn’t even know the Korean War had anything to do with the U.S..
Regardless, when I read the news yesterday about fallen soldiers finally returning home after 70 years of anonymity, I felt relieved. The idea that men who lost their lives to protect democracy in the world were receiving the acclaim, honor, and the respect that they deserved was satisfying and uplifting. My parents, let alone myself, were not even born when the conflict took place. Nonetheless, I felt an emotional connection to the men who were brought home. Why? Because of the homeland we share.
The idea that someone as distant to the war like myself was moved by the recovery of these fallen American soldiers makes me wonder what families may be undergoing at this very moment. A wife may be praying that her husband is found so that she can show her grandkids that their grandpa was a real hero. A daughter may be hopeful that she can say her unsaid final goodbye to her dad. All sorts of emotions must be surging through families with missing loved ones from the Korean War. The fact that there is even a slight chance of being able to pay final respects to these loved ones must be comforting, reassuring, and exciting.
For this reason, I believe it was wrong for officials, with so little legitimate evidence, to make it public that American soldiers were coming home. According to a USA Today article titled, ‘Today our boys are coming home’: Presumed remains of US soldiers returned by North Korea arrive in Hawaii, the Korean War killed millions of people, including 36,000 soldiers. Of those soldiers, 7,700 are missing U.S. soldiers. 5,300 of American remains are still in the Korean peninsula. With those numbers, how can officials confidently publicize that our American soldiers are coming home? Millions of people died in the war and along with the American soldiers, there were soldiers from South Korea, North Korea, and China fighting on the battlefield.
John Byrd, laboratory director of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, stated that evidence like boots, helmets, and canteens were excavated and solidified the fact that the recovered remains were American. However, on what grounds can these discovered items identify the soldiers as American? Was a DNA test done on the discovered items that proved they belonged to Americans? If so, how does that prove the soldiers are American? Even if the (DNA tested) items were in close proximity to the remains, how can we then assume anything about the remains’ nationality. What if a North Korean soldier died on an American-South Korean site near one of the excavated items?
I can go on.
It is not fair to the families of missing loved ones to hear that fallen American soldiers have been recovered when there is so much uncertainty in the investigation. I believe that officials can only be sure these soldiers are American until a DNA test is done on each of the sets of remains. Even though this testing may take months or years, it is the right thing to do as families will not be riding on a false hope that will only unsettle and disturb them in the end. Claiming the soldiers are American and then possibly realizing that some of them are not is disrespectful not only to the families but to the lives lost in the war effort; the uncertainty shows carelessness and a lack of dedication towards truly bringing our boys back home.