POW/Missing Personnel Office
2400 Defense Pentagon
Washington DC 20301-2400
The remains [believed to be those of Charles M. Dean] that were returned recently were excavated from Laos, although our teams also bring back remains from Vietnam, Cambodia, Russia, Papua New Guinea; China; Albania; Germany; France; and many other countries where Americans have been lost.
Our mission is to account for missing Americans. Some of the Americans are servicemembers, but some are not. For example, from the Vietnam War alone, there are some 35 civilians still listed as unaccounted-for. Some of them were associated with military operations, but not all of them. It was determined back in the 60ís and 70ís that these losses, even though they were not military should be carried on the large database used to track all the unaccounted-for Americans. Why? Because in the event our teams found remains, there would be a far better chance to identify them if case files had been assembled from the information known at the time of their loss. It would have been unacceptable for the U.S. government not to assemble this information, perhaps to be used at some later date.
Whenever these remains are recovered by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, they are brought back to the Central Identification Laboratory where the forensic ID process begins. No one can positively say whose remains are in the casket until that process is completed, so as a matter of long standing practice, the caskets are draped in the flag. And since we really donít know if the individual is civilian or military, they are all rendered honors since theyíre arriving on a military installation, having been recovered by a military unit, and heading toward a military laboratory. Often, remains are co-mingled, so within one casket might rest the remains of both a military person and a civilian. So the use of the American flag is to honor the person returning, not to confirm that he is or is not a former member of the military.
All of the remains that we bring back from SEA are honored in this way.
Director of Public Affairs
December 4, 2003
(page last revised 12/04/2003 08:44 PM -0500 )