by Mark A. Rehl, President of Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 55, Licking County, Ohio

(BNc) — This is the motto that motivates a never-ending mission to find America’s military that remain missing during combat. These are the words that offer comfort to families struggling with decades of silence and the anxiety that burdens them regarding their loved one’s end. These words speak hope, comfort, and strength.

In Washington, D.C., an office of the Department of Defense (DoD) exists to help bring closure to the files of those military personnel who are listed as missing.

As this mission continues, there is an interesting connection between the Department of Defense, Kyiv, Ukraine and Judsonia, Ark., and the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 55, Licking County, Ohio.

The Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMPO) establishes the United States government policy on the recovery and identification of American service personnel missing in action from the Vietnam War, the Cold War, the Korean War and World War II. Working with other partners in the Department of Defense community, this office identifies approximately 80-90 Americans per year, returning them to their families for burials with full military honors.

The DoD budget for this mission is very small. There about 600 specialists carrying out this mission from locations in Hawaii, Moscow, Washington, D.C., Maryland, Ohio, Texas, Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia. There are some 88,000 Americans missing from past conflicts, including 1,698 from the war in Vietnam.

The Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) has a long-standing relationship with counterpart veterans’ groups in Ukraine. In 2006, the Ukrainian veterans presented VVA with a list of North Vietnamese claims for downed American and allied aircraft compiled using the sources of the Ukrainian National Air Force University.

As a show of appreciation for the help from Ukraine Veterans a committee visited Kyiv, Ukraine and presented two new wheelchairs to the Kyiv Veterans Association. The wheelchairs were received with such appreciation that the returning committee decided to collect a container of wheelchairs and send to Ukraine.

The collection went well but then numerous obstacles obstructed the shipping. After two years of frustration the Department of Missing Persons was asked to contact John L. Kachelman, Jr., evangelist for the Judsonia church of Christ.

Utilizing the experience that has allowed the churches of Christ to ship 200+ containers of humanitarian aid into Ukraine, Kachelman was able to complete all arrangements and receive the required approvals in order for the container to be shipped. The container will be loaded in Cincinnati, Oh., on April 29, and should arrive in Kyiv, Ukraine in June. The container will be presented at a special ceremony recognizing the cooperation and success of those involved.

Kachelman is in Ukraine and will be unable to be present at the Cincinnati loading, but in his place, David Lawyer of the College church of Christ in Searcy, Ark., will go. Lawyer is one of the leaders in the churches of Christ involved in the shipping of humanitarian aid throughout the world and volunteers work with LIFE RESOURCES INTERNATIONAL in Judsonia, Ark. Lawyer is retired from the United States Air Force and is a Vietnam Veteran. Lawyer will be driving a truck-load of items to be loaded into the container.

This container will be shipped by the United States government’s Department of State as a part of its international humanitarian efforts. The logistics will be coordinated by Rang Hee Kim and Ramzi Soubra with COUNTERPART INTERNATIONAL. This project is only possible because the United States government funds the transportation assistance budget that is administered by the US Department of State. Through this budget item millions of donated dollar items are transported and distributed throughout the world.

For more information contact Svetlana Shevchenko, Foreign Affairs Specialist, OSD/DPMO/JCSD, David Lawyer at 501-230-5335, or Mark A. Rehl.

Barbara has been involved in missions for over 25 years, both in the field and in publishing.