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‘We constantly have them on our minds’ — A little-known agency searches all over for the remains of MIA service members
The 80-minute ride each day to the site in Lang Son Province, Vietnam, through mostly unspoiled forestland and fields, reminded Air Force Master Sgt. Aliah Reyes a little of her hometown back in Maine.
The Eliot native recently returned from a 45-day mission to the Southeast Asian country, where she was part of a team conducting a search for a Vietnam War service member who went missing more than 45 years ago and is presumed dead.
Reyes, 38, enlisted in the Air Force out of high school and has spent more than half her life in military service. But she had never been a part of anything like this.
Army Pfc. Robert Fletcher restarted his life in Ann Arbor after the Korean War, the trauma of combat and captivity never far from his mind. He'd survived nearly three years of extreme hunger, freezing temperatures and psychological abuse as a prisoner of war in Camp No. 5 along the banks of the Yalu River that divides China and North Korea.
Back home, Fletcher's harrowing experience manifested itself as a myriad of health problems and severe PTSD that cropped up daily until his death at age 85. And so it shocked his family to learn he wouldn't be afforded full military honors when laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery in 2018.
A 58-year-old Bucks County man was indicted for falsely claiming he was a Navy SEAL and prisoner of war — he never served a day in the military — in order to steal more than $300,000 in government benefits, U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain announced Monday.
Richard Meleski of Chalfont was arrested and charged in federal court with health-care fraud, mail fraud, stolen valor, and related offenses in connection with his alleged scheme to obtain health-care benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs and disability benefits from the Social Security Administration.
Bob Pollock became known as perhaps one of the most dedicated people around Crofton, Maryland committed to honoring those who serve the nation. It only made sense, as the creator of the Two Rivers community monument told neighbors and friends he was a former Navy SEAL and had been a prisoner of war.
Except he wasn't.
With the Imperial Japanese Army hot on his heels, Oscar Leonard says he barely slipped away from getting caught in the grueling Bataan Death March in 1942 by jumping into a choppy bay in the dark of the night, clinging to a log and paddling to the Allied-fortified island of Corregidor.
After many weeks of fighting there and at Mindanao, he was finally captured by the Japanese and spent the next several years languishing under brutal conditions in Filipino and Japanese World War II POW camps.
Now, having just turned 100 years old, the Antioch resident has been recognized for his 42-month ordeal as a prisoner of war, thanks to the efforts of his friends at the Brentwood VFW Post #10789 and Congressman Jerry McNerney.
McNerney, Brentwood VFW Commander Steve Todd and Junior Vice Commander John Bradley helped obtain a POW award after doing research and requesting records to surprise Leonard during a birthday party last month.