News | Oct. 8, 2015

Land and Maritime's POW/MIA ceremony honors service members, family sacrifices

By Michael L. Jones DLA Land and Maritime Public Affairs


On a day that America has historically recognized the heroic efforts of its military service members DLA Land and Maritime hosted its 2015 POW/MIA Commemoration Ceremony in the Building 20 Auditorium with more than 300 people in attendance.

Originally observed in July 1979, POW/MIA recognition day was moved to the third Friday of September in 1986 and continued to be a time set aside to acknowledge the dedication and commitment of our service members who were held as prisoners of war or who are still listed as missing action.

After paying tribute to the 83,114 Americans are unaccounted for since WWII, Navy Rear Admiral John King, DLA Land and Maritime commander talked specifically about the sacrifices made by the families of POWs/MIAs. “Though numbers do tell part of the story – what those numbers don’t reveal to us are the countless days, months and years families have waited patiently and hopefully, for word that their missing loved one might return home,” King said.

The ceremony began with the Presentation of Colors by the DLA Defense Supply Center Honor Guard, and concluded with a memorable presentation of the POW/MIA Table of Remembrance Toast by the USAF OSU ROTC Arnold Air Society, Detachment 645.

In between those two inspiring events, those in attendance got the opportunity to hear from Ms. Mitch Guess, the daughter of former MIA US Air Force Colonel (Ret) Francis McGouldrick, Jr. Guess painted an emotional picture of what it was like to wait – for in her words “what seemed like an eternity” - for official word that her father’s remains had been recovered.

McGouldrick’s aircraft, a B-57B bomber was involved in a mid-air collision in 1968 while on a nighttime mission over Laos. Weathering several unsuccessful attempts to locate his crash site and the yo-yo of emotions that accompanied the inconclusive updates they received, the family never gave up hope.  

“There’ve been more than 2,500 other families who have similar MIA stories like ours and we all share the anguish of not knowing what actually happened to our loved ones,” Guess explained.

“But in August 2012 we got the call about a search team finding remains and I waited to share the news because I didn’t want our family to experience another let-down. We waited through the DNA testing and got 100 percent positive identification that the remains were our father’s. Because of the years of bureaucratic struggle we faced we dedicated ourselves as a family to educate people about the difficulties POW families encounter in seeking honest answers about the fate of their loved ones.”

Guess shared very emotional details of their father’s repatriation and how deeply it impacted their family.

McGouldrick’s repatriation was honored as the first Air Force Memorial MIA service conducted in Washington, DC.  After the service his remains were transferred to Arlington Cemetery for burial with his wife who had been buried there earlier. McGouldrick’s repatriation ceremony took place 45 years to the day he was reported missing.

Before leaving King and Keith Furman, DFAS chief of staff, presented Guess with an appreciation momento for sharing her family’s POW/MIA experience. A reception was held immediately afterwards that provided opportunity for those gathered to meet, greet and support each other.