The Search for POW/MIA Remains: Thoughts on My Trip to the Excavation Site

By Chargé d’affaires Michael Newbill

Last week, I had the honor and opportunity to visit a site excavation performed by the DPAA.  DPAA is charged with one of America’s most important humanitarian missions – finding and returning the remains of U.S. soldiers killed in action overseas.  Returning the remains of loved ones to their families is a universal instinct; for Americans, this mission not only helps families find closure, but fulfils a sacred trust between our soldiers and the families and communities from which they come.

Cambodia has supported this humanitarian mission for over 26 years. While there are still 48 unaccounted-for Americans in Cambodia, we have worked with local authorities and the Cambodian POW/MIA Committee to bring the remains of 42 soldiers home.

This particular excavation is taking place in thick bamboo forests, on a steep slope in a remote part of Cambodia.  The American participants, along with their Cambodian staff, have painstakingly cleared sites deep in the jungle, built long supply routes, and work long, hot days.  Still, they are dedicated to this important mission, and are grateful for the assistance and cooperation of their Cambodian partners.

I spoke with Dr. Penny Minturn, the lead archeologist, who explained the site parameters to me, and the nature of the excavation. I was able to see and demonstrate the techniques used to search for items.  I did my part by chopping down a towering bamboo tree! And I was able to meet the Cambodian staff from Rattanakiri supporting the mission.  A very inspiring visit!