The remains of six soldiers arrived at Hickam Air Force base in Honolulu, Hawaii today. We attended the ceremony hosted by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command held in Hanger 35 on base. The transfer cases will move to the JPAC Central Identification Lab where forensic analysis will attempt to identify these individuals, then notify their next of kin.
The short program opened with a powerful voice singing our national anthem. A joint service honor guard and senior officers from each military branch were there this morning to pay their respects. Several hundred people gathered as the six flag draped, transfer cases surrounded by an honor guard were carried off the C-17 transport aircraft onto two awaiting buses.
The first five transfer cases carried World War II remains recovered from the United Kingdom, Canada, Vanuatu, Germany and Papua New Guinea. The sixth case was a Vietnam loss recovered in Laos.
Attending the service were veterans including a group of Purple Heart award recipients, active duty military personnel and media. The solemn service ended with a lone bugler playing taps.
We also spoke with a couple of Hawaii residents who attend as many of these events as possible. The remains of Carole Hickerson’s husband came through Hickam in this manner in 2002. His body was escorted home, in full dress uniform and buried at Arlington National Cemetery. She was visibly moved by the proceedings this morning.
She met her current husband, Jim Hickerson through National League of Families of America’s Prisoners of War and Missing in Action in Southeast Asia. Jim was a prisoner of war in Hanoi after his aircraft was shot down over Vietnam. He spent five years in the notorious Hanoi Hilton. He and Carole attend about six of these arrival ceremonies each year.
Since 1970, the U.S. government has identified remains of 1,770 American military personnel and reunited them with their families.