The search should continue -- for the 1,399 Americans still listed as missing in action in Vietnam. Every reasonable effort should be made to learn what happened to these people and to resolve the torment their friends and loved ones still harbor because of the lack of closure.
For many, of course, details will come too late. It has been 30 years since the end of the war and 40 years since the first American combat troops landed in South Vietnam. Death has claimed many of those who sought information.
Joseph L. Galloway of the Knight Ridder Newspapers points out that a small group of people linked to Detachment Two of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command continues to operate in Hanoi and uses the files it has on every one of the missing to search for solutions. The Vietnamese government is giving what help it can after a period where it provided little help due to resentment over the American combat efforts.
The U.S. detachment has separated the files into two groups: 667, including 468 individuals lost over the ocean, on whom there are no leads and little or no information; and 732 possibles. This includes some 500 individuals for whom there are leads or information, however sketchy.
Air Force Lt. Clif Cushman, a Kansas University and Olympic track star, was lost in combat in Vietnam as a fighter pilot in the 1960s and his whereabouts never have been determined. His file is among those 1,339. His widow, now in Omaha, and daughter have never been able to gain definitive information despite constant efforts.
The cost of trying to find, identify and return a single American who disappeared in or around Vietnam is more than $1 million.
"But the extraordinary effort is worth it to the families who have waited and hoped for so long that word would finally come that their son, husband, father or brother has been found and is coming home," writes Galloway. "It's worth it to those who wear the uniform of their country and believe in a simple creed that they are Americans and that we will leave no one behind on the battlefield."
That creed should never be forgotten or violated, whatever the war, wherever the location.